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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Protests by students against downgrading of Tibetan language spread to Beijing

October 26, 2010

ICT report
October 22, 2010

Protests by Tibetan school and college students
over plans to restrict the use of their language
have spread from several areas of Qinghai to
Beijing, according to new reports this morning.
Several hundred Tibetan students at Minzu
(Chinese: Nationality) University of China
protested at noon today (October 22) to express
their concern about the downgrading of the
Tibetan language. This followed protests by
hundreds of Tibetan students in the Rebkong and
Chabcha areas of Qinghai sparked by new measures
to increase Chinese-language medium teaching and
undermine Tibetan language study.

The scale of the protests across Tibet at a time
of already intense political repression - and now
in China’s capital -reflect the strength of
feeling among Tibetans about the marginalization
and erosion of their language, the bedrock of
Tibetan identity, religion and culture.  The
demonstrations follow a new emphasis in Qinghai
province on the importance of Chinese language
for Tibetans and a new ‘bilingual education’
imperative that is designed to transition
‘minority’ students from education in their
mother tongue to education in Chinese.  The
situation is reportedly tense in the area, with a strong security presence.

A new status update on a popular social
networking site read:  "Today at 12, over 400
students protested at Minzu University of China
[in Beijing] about freedom of language,"
according to High Peaks Pure Earth, which also
published photographs of the demonstration at
The university has the largest concentration of
Tibetans in China’s capital, with more than 600
Tibetan students, who are mostly studying Tibetology.

This week’s protests in support of the Tibetan
language began in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) in
Qinghai (the Tibetan area of Amdo) on Tuesday
(October 19) when hundreds of students and some
monks marched through the streets to express
opposition to new measures under discussion in
Qinghai about downgrading further Tibetan as a
medium of instruction in schools. Students from
the teacher training college in Malho (Chinese:
Huangnan) held a banner with the slogan: "Return
the authority of the Tibetan language."

Students from six schools in the area, including
the First Tibetan Middle School, Yifu National
Middle School and the Teacher’s Training College
in Malho demanded expanded use of the Tibetan
language and protested against new measures of
teaching through the Chinese language (Radio Free
Asia video of the protests:

On Wednesday (October 20), thousands more
students took to the streets in Amdo, in various
towns in Chabcha (Chinese: Gonghe) county in
Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous
Prefecture in Qinghai. According to various
Tibetan sources in contact with Tibetans in the
area, Tibetan students aged between 11 and 18
carried banners, written in both Tibetan and
Chinese, reading "Equality Among Nationalities"
and "Expand the Use of the Tibetan Language." An
eyewitness told Radio Free Asia: "The
participants in the protests were students and we
saw no participation from the public. All protest
marching was peaceful and orderly.” Both Rebkong
and Chabcha have the highest concentrations of students in the area.

The protests in Qinghai appear to have been
sparked by new measures that focus on Chinese as
the main language of instruction and the
downgrading of the Tibetan language to be treated
only as a language class, and with less time accorded to it in the curriculum.

This was confirmed by an official in Qinghai,
identified only as Mr. Wang for the International
Information Office of the Qinghai government, in
a comment to CNN that: "The protest resulted from
a new education policy which reduces Tibetan
language teachings."
Radio Free Asia also reported a source saying
that the provincial authorities had ordered
Tibetan teachers to attend workshops on the
change of the medium of instruction from Tibetan
to Chinese, saying: "If this plan is implemented,
many Tibetan teachers will lose their jobs, and
many Chinese will gain jobs in their place. This
is a major concern for the Tibetan community.”
The same source said that Qinghai Party Secretary
Qiang Wei had ordered that language used in
textbooks must be changed to Chinese.

In an article today in the English-language
Global Times, a publication of China’s People’s
Daily, Shao Lei, the manager of Bai Jia Hotel in
Chabcha county, was quoted as confirming that a
group of students marched on Wednesday morning.
"The students, most wearing school uniforms, marched peacefully," he said.

In the same article, a professor of ethnic policy
studies, Xiong Kunxin, at Minzu University of
China, where a protest occurred today, suggested
that the local authorities should conduct more
research and listen to local people's opinions
before implementing language policies. Xiong
Kunxin also argued that encouraging local people
to learn standard Chinese would not marginalize
Tibetan culture. (

The situation in the Rebkong, Chabcha and Xining
area is reportedly very tense tonight, with one
student saying the situation felt "potentially explosive."

New measures on language education in Qinghai spark protests

The current Party Secretary of Qinghai province
Qiang Wei has recently outlined the importance of
the Chinese language over Tibetan, stating at a
conference in education in September that:
"Qinghai province has vigorously implemented
state common language [Chinese] teaching in
compulsory education while extending the
‘bilingual’ teaching of minority languages and
scripts, making people of all minority
nationalities grasp and use the Chinese language
and script, thereby achieving ‘intercommunication
between ethnics and Han’ [minhan jiantong]." He
added that strengthening "bilingual” education,
which asserts the importance of the Chinese
language, is “an important political duty.”
(Translation into English by ICT, of People’s
Daily article, ‘Qinghai Province Party Secretary
Qiang Wei: Make “bi-lingual” education a
livelihood project’, September 30,

New measures to "forcefully develop ‘bilingual’
pre-school education in the farming and pastoral
areas, strengthen teaching of the Chinese
language in the basic education phase, basically
resolve nationality students fundamental ability
issues in speaking and understanding Chinese"
were outlined as part of a ten-year plan for
2010-2020 in Qinghai in June. The section on
‘bilingual’ education, issued by four government
departments including the Qinghai education
department, is translated into English by ICT and
included at the end of this report.

According to Tibetan sources, another factor
behind the unrest in Chabcha may be the
intensified level of control over students that
has followed the consolidation of around 200
schools into 60 boarding schools from 2008
onwards. Although many villages had their own
elementary schools, now children are required to
study in the boarding schools in the townships,
and they are only allowed to leave their campuses
once a month. One scholar from Amdo called this
effectively a "lockdown." This new measure
includes children as young as four or five, and
has created concern among parents in the area.

Resentment over few places in colleges to study
Tibetan language and very few job opportunities
even when Tibetans graduate is also likely to
have been a factor behind the Rebkong and Chabcha
protests. Last month in Lhasa, hundreds of
Tibetan graduates of the Institute of Tibetan
Traditional Medicine protested in front of the
Tibet Autonomous Region offices in Lhasa,
carrying banners demanding an increase in
available jobs. In an interview by Radio Free
Asia, a Tibetan closely associated with the Lhasa
institute said: "Many Tibetan students who have
texted [by cell phone] among themselves have been detained.”

There is intensifying anxiety over job prospects
among graduate students throughout all of the
PRC, but this is particularly notable in Tibetan
areas due to the dominance of the Chinese
language across all sectors and employer
discrimination against Tibetan job-seekers. In
2006, for example, students at Lhasa University
protested when 98 out of 100 government positions
were assigned to Chinese graduates, and only two
were assigned to Tibetan graduates. (Radio Free
Asia report, November 8, 2006,
It was later reported that in response to the
students’ protest the number of Tibetan recruits
was increased; however, students from mainland
China were told at the same time that loans would
be waived if they agreed to work in “western or
remote areas” of the PRC, a situation which
further disadvantages and marginalizes Tibetan
graduates. The new education measures will make
finding work even more difficult for those
Tibetan university students who will be seeking
employment as teachers in the Tibetan language,
as they will now be left with even fewer job opportunities.

ICT’s Amdowa researcher Zorgyi, based in India,
said: "The education policy inside Tibet has
created a very tense environment for Tibetan
schoolchildren and students. The Chinese
authorities state that every minority nationality
has the right to preserve their own language and
writings.  But the reality is that Tibetan
university students cannot get a good job without
good Chinese language after graduation, and even
then it is difficult.  The Tibetan language is
central to our identity as Tibetans, but in every
way the Tibetan language is being downgraded."

The importance of the Tibetan language

"Without the Tibetan language, it is clear that Tibet won't be Tibet any more."

The Tibetan language is fundamental to Tibetan
identity, culture and religion, and is one of the
four oldest and most original languages of Asia.
At a roundtable discussion in Washington, DC,
scholar Nicolas Tournadre, professor of
linguistics from the University of Provence and
an expert on the Tibetan language, said: "There
is a real threat of extinction or very serious
decline of the Tibetan language and the Tibetan
culture within two -- or at the most three --
generations. [...] During the last 15 years, I
have personally witnessed this decline. [...]
Languages are not neutral. They convey very
specific social and cultural behaviors and ways
of thinking. So, the extinction of the Tibetan
language will have tremendous consequences for
the Tibetan culture. The culture cannot be
preserved without it. […]  It is important
because the Tibetan language and culture are
extremely original. Forget about linguistics,
medicine, or architecture; just take literature.
Tibetan is one of the four oldest and greatest in
volume and most original literatures of Asia,
along with Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese
literatures. So, that is a very good reason for
the heritage of humanity to keep this culture.

"[Also] for the Tibetan economy it is very
important in nearly every sector. [...] Right now
the rate of unemployment in Tibet is extremely
high. A lot of rural Tibetans, whether nomads or
peasants, are almost like foreigners in their own
country and they don't have the linguistic
ability to find jobs.  When they come to the
cities, their culture is marginalized and
devalued. So this leads also to the
marginalization and devaluation of the people
themselves. Without the Tibetan language, it is
clear that Tibet won't be Tibet any more."
(Transcript of the full Congressional-Executive
Commission on China roundtable, Teaching and
Learning Tibetan: The Role of the Tibetan
Language in Tibet's Future, is at

In 2002, the Chinese authorities announced new
regulations on the study and use of Tibetan
language, which China Daily described as "the
first government regulation[s] ever passed in
China on preserving an ethnic language" (March
22, 2002). While this could be taken as an
indication of the gravity of the threat facing
the Tibetan language, practical measures to
ensure its more widespread use and study were
either not implemented or withdrawn and the
downgrading of the Tibetan language in favor of
the Chinese language in Tibet has continued.

Development economist Andrew Fischer, who has
carried out extensive fieldwork in Tibet,
including in Rebkong, suggests that two critical
dimensions of current policy need to be addressed
in order to lessen current economic polarity and
social instability, saying: "On the one hand,
urban employment for locals requires protection
and promotion at both the lower and upper strata.
On the other hand, the linguistic and cultural
disadvantages faced by Tibetans in urban
employment need to be lessened, albeit in ways
that do not undermine Tibetan language and
culture. It is suggested that the existing
national minority laws in China already provide
ways to resolve both issues if their full
implications were put into practice, as
exemplified by the recommendation by the [late]
10th Panchen Lama that public sector employees
working in Tibetan areas should have at least
some working knowledge of the Tibetan language,
supported by a strong promotion of [genuine
Tibetan and Chinese] bilingual education in the
minority areas." (Educating for Exclusion in
Western China: Structural and institutional
dimensions of conflict in the Tibetan areas of
Qinghai and Tibet by Andrew M. Fischer,

In the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the
Tibetan People handed over to Chinese officials
on November 4-5, 2008 as part of the Sino-Tibetan
dialogue process, Tibetan representatives of the
Dalai Lama drew attention to the critical
importance of the Tibetan language, citing
provisions in the Constitution of the PRC and the
Law on Regional National Autonomy which guarantee
the freedom of nationalities the ability to use
and develop their own spoken and written
languages. The Memorandum notes that: "Article 10
of the Law on Regional National Autonomy provides
that these organs ‘shall guarantee the freedom of
the nationalities in these areas to use and
develop their own spoken and written
and the Note to the Memorandum

ICT recommendations to governments:

* Seek to ensure that the right of peaceful
expression of views by the students be respected,
and that the relevant authorities address their
grievances substantively and appropriately;
* As part of engagement with the Chinese on
education issues, raise the issue of study for
Tibetans in their own language, drawing attention
to the importance accorded to this by the Chinese
state as evidenced by the 2002 ‘Regulations on
the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan
Language’ and in accordance with the Law on Regional National Autonomy;
* Encourage Chinese leaders to engage with the
Dalai Lama's representatives, as part of their
dialogue process, specifically on issues of
language and education as spelled out in the
Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy
and the Note to the Memorandum


Qinghai Government Information Office Document (2010) No. 126

Qinghai Government Information Office

Notice from four provincial departments including
the Department of Education on guiding
suggestions for strengthening the education
development plan by promoting work on the adjustment of school distribution

Xining City, all Tibet Autonomous Prefectural
Governments, Haidong Administrative Offices, and
all Provincial Government committees, offices, departments and bureaus:

The "Guiding suggestions for strengthening the
education development plan by promoting work on
the adjustment of school distribution" by the
provincial Department of Education, the
provincial Reform and Development Commission, the
provincial Department of Finance and the
provincial Housing and Urban Construction
Department has been agreed upon by the provincial
government and is hereby relayed to you for careful implementation.

Qinghai Government Information Office
June21, 2010

Guiding suggestions for strengthening the
education development plan by promoting work on
the adjustment of school distribution

Provincial Department of Education; Provincial
Reform and Development Commission; Provincial
Department of Finance; Provincial Housing and Urban Construction Department

(June 2010)

 From the "Twelfth Five-Year Plan" to the year
2020 is a key period in our province’s
construction of a well-off society in an
all-round way and the promotion of construction
and modernization. In accordance with the "State
mid- to long-term education reform and
development outline plan (2010-2020)" issued
approved and passed by the State Council, and in
order to comprehensively implement the scientific
development view and to satisfy the masses’
educational demands that are growing greater by
the day -- in particular the demands for
outstanding educational resources – to further
strengthen education planning, to optimize the
allocation of education resources, to standardize
the establishment of schools, to promote and
implement work on adjusting school distribution
across the province, and to promote the
comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable
development of education throughout the province,
the following guiding suggestion are hereby given:


7) Implement a project of reforming and advancing
"bilingual" education. Forcefully develop
"bilingual" pre-school education in the farming
and pastoral areas, strengthen teaching of the
Chinese language in the basic education phase,
basically resolve nationality students
fundamental ability issues in speaking and
understanding Chinese, and in reading and writing
in order to make minority nationality students
raise a step further their Chinese language
abilities and levels on the basis of studying
well their mother tongue. Implement "Ethnics and
Han co-education” and off-site schooling and
classes, change the teaching and learning
environment, create new training models and
create innovative conditions for minority
nationality students to receive a good education.
Train “bilingual” teaching staff, strengthen the
ranks of teachers. Establish teaching materials
systems to match “bilingual” education, develop
and create “bilingual” education resources, and
strengthen and improve the teaching and study of
the natural sciences in nationality elementary
and middle schools. Deepen nationality
preparatory education reforms. Equip each
individual class at nationality boarding schools
with a television, and arrange for teachers and
students to watch such Chinese-language
programming as “News Broadcast” every day. Strive
for Provinces and Prefectures (districts,
cities), county broadcasts, television stations
to start specialized programming for minority
nationalities to study the Chinese language and
script and for Han to study minority languages
and scripts, creating a social atmosphere of
studying and applying “bilingual”-ism.


Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Director of Communications, International Campaign for Tibet
Tel: +44 (0) 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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