[ Security Tightened in Qinghai after Student Protests – NTDTV ]
Faced with the prospect of losing the right to be taught in their native tongue, up to 6,000 students in Tibet staged a protest against the Chinese Communist Party's plan of using only the Chinese language in teaching.
On Oct. 19 the students from six schools from Rebkong (Tongren) County of Qinghai Province protested peacefully, some holding banners saying “Equality Among Nationalities” and “Freedom of language,” the British-based Free Tibet reported. The protest was closely monitored by the police.
The students walked from one school to another with more and more students joining the parade on its way, in the end gathering in front of the county government. After officials came out for negotiation, students were dismissed around noon. Some of the students resumed classes in the afternoon.
Qinghai Provincial authorities passed an educational reform program in September 2010. The plan is to cancel the previous teaching arrangement in two languages with Tibetan language as the primary teaching language. According to the new program, schools need to conduct Chinese language teaching only and translate all Tibetan textbooks into Chinese within the next five years.
Locals have been resistant to the idea.
A reporter from Radio Free Asia (RFA) called the county office, but was told to not care about the issue, and had the phone hung up.
The UK human rights group Free Tibet says the policy will eventually eliminate Tibetan language and culture.
A high school teacher who previously taught in Rebkong told RFA that the reforms remind him of the Cultural Revolution. He said the reform threatens their native language and violates the Chinese constitution.
Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer who lives in Beijing, has been paying close attention to the dispute. “According to the Law on the Autonomy of Ethnic Minority Regions, ethnic language has been heavily emphasized,” she told RFA. “However, the autonomy laws are useless, as ethnic languages are always ignored. For example, if a person from an ethnic group cannot speak Chinese but can speak his native language well, he simply cannot find a job.”
Woeser is one of the award winners of Courage in Journalism for this year. On Oct. 19, the International Woman’s Media Foundation in the United States hosted the “2010 Courage in Journalism Awards” ceremony in New York. She was unable to receive the award in person, however, because the authorities refused to grant her a passport.
Woeser considers it a matter of urgency to save the Tibetan language and writing system. Tibet’s spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, once warned that if Tibet cannot realize autonomous rule, its culture will vanish within 15 years.