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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan student protests spread

October 25, 2010

Thousands of students protest over language curbs in Chinese schools
October 22, 2010

Tibetan student language protests Tibetan
students protest in Rebkong, in north-west
China's Qinghai province, angry at being forced
to study in the Chinese language. Photograph: Free Tibet/AFP/Getty Images

Protests by Tibetan school students in western
China over plans to restrict the use of their
language have spread, according to state media and a campaign group.

Thousands of teenagers took to the streets of
Tibetan areas of Qinghai province on Wednesday,
the Free Tibet group said. The peaceful marches
followed a demonstration by at least 1,000
teenagers in Rebkong, also known as Tongren, the previous day.

In Chabcha county, also known as Gonghe, around
2,000 students from four schools demonstrated,
shouting: "We want freedom for Tibetan language",
Free Tibet said. It also said middle school
pupils protested in Tsigorthang county, also known as Xinghai.

In Tawo, also known as Dawu, students protested
from sunrise. Authorities later stopped people
going onto the streets, the group added.

The English-language Global Times newspaper said
students had taken to the streets of "several"
Tibetan regions in Qinghai, citing a Tongren
county spokesman and a Gonghe resident.

Such demonstrations are rare, despite
long-running concerns that the Tibetan language
is being marginalised by the authorities,
although Tibetan areas in provinces such as
Qinghai are governed less strictly than the autonomous region.

The protests were sparked by an order that all
lessons and textbooks should be in Chinese in
primary schools by 2015, with the exception of
Tibetan language and English classes.

China says it has a bilingual education system in
Tibetan areas and that promoting Mandarin helps
young Tibetans to integrate into broader Chinese society and find better jobs.

But many Tibetans complain that their culture is
being eroded and fear Tibetan teachers will lose
their jobs because of the new rules. The friction
reflects wider anger at controls on their culture and religion.

Shao Lei, the manager of a hotel in Gonghe
county, told the Global Times that a group of
students, most in school uniforms, marched peacefully on Wednesday morning.

"It's difficult to count the exact number, but
there were not thousands of students protesting," he added.

Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic policy
studies at Minzu University of China, told the
paper that promoting standard Chinese would help
people integrate into mainstream society.

"Some local people might have misunderstood the goodwill," he added.

He said that local authorities should conduct
more research and listen to residents' opinions
before implementing language policies.
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