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Students, activists hold support vigil for language protests in Tibet

November 3, 2010

November 1, 2010

Dharamsala, Nov 2 -- Students for a Free Tibet
India held a candlelight march and rally on
Monday in solidarity with Tibetan students in
Tibet who are asserting their right to study in their own language.

Last week, an estimated 6,000 Tibetans, mostly
students, in the Tibetan province of Amdo
(Chinese: Qinghai Province) protested the Qinghai
Provincial Government’s decision to replace
Tibetan with Chinese as the medium of instruction
in Tibetan schools. Tibetan students in the
neighbouring Tibetan province of Kham (Chinese:
Gansu Province and Sichuan Province) and in
Beijing have held solidarity protests.

"Language is the foundation of Tibetan culture
and this recent attack on our language reveals
the Chinese governments’ sinister attempt to
assimilate Tibetans into Chinese society,” said
Tenzin Choedon, National Director of Students for
a Free Tibet India. “Students across Tibet have
spoken out clearly against this discriminatory
policy and students worldwide are taking action
to amplify their voices and support their demand for freedom of language.”

The protests by Tibetans followed similar
protests by Cantonese speakers earlier this year.
In July 2010, nearly 8,000 Chinese people marched
in Guangzhou, China to protest Beijing's plans to
replace Cantonese with Mandarin in state
television broadcasts. Authorities relented,
agreeing to maintain Cantonese language
broadcasts, and no widespread crackdown on the protesters occurred.

"It is the inalienable right of every Tibetan to
learn in their own language. We call on
governments around the world to press the Chinese
government to respect Tibetan language rights,”
said Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director of
Students for a Free Tibet. The Tibetan students'
actions over the last two weeks are the largest protests in Tibet since 2008.

Tibetan teachers are also concerned about the new
language policy. More than two hundred teachers
signed an appeal letter on October 10th to
Chinese authorities emphasizing the negative
impact the policy would have on their students’
academic performance and intellectual growth.
Just days ago, Radio Free Asia reported that
Uyghur students and teachers were also expressing
widespread support for the Tibetan language protests.

Students for a Free Tibet India collected
petition signatures during the rally addressed to
China’s Ambassador to India, Mr. Zhang Yan,
calling on the Chinese government to allow
Tibetans to use Tibetan as the medium of
instruction. The petition also calls on Chinese
authorities to ensure that no one involved in the
protests be persecuted for their actions.
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