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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?"

Hundreds sign petition for Tibet language: activists

October 29, 2010

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
October 26, 2010

BEIJING -- Hundreds of teachers and students in
northwest China have signed a petiition in
support of the Tibetan language, a rights group
said, after an official education reform plan triggered protests.

Thousands of students demonstrated last week in
Qinghai province over plans to institute Chinese
as the main language of instruction, limiting use
of Tibetan to language classes. Protests spread
to a Beijing university on Friday.

According to sources in the area contacted by the
US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT),
more than 20 students from a Tibetan school in
Qinghai's Gonghe county have been detained following the protests.

The petition, submitted to authorities, was
signed by more than 300 teachers and students and
calls for Tibetan to remain the main language for teaching.

It says that if Chinese-language instruction is
adopted for Qinghai's Tibetan students, "the
outcome would be that the students would not
understand what the teacher is saying, not to
mention be able to actually learn anything."

The petition -- a copy of which was emailed to
AFP by ICT -- says that many Tibetans in the
province come from farming and nomadic areas and
have never been in a Chinese-language environment.

While it acknowledges the need for Tibetans to
learn Chinese, it compares the reform plans to
instituting English as the language of
instruction for ordinary Han Chinese school students.

An official with the Qinghai education department
told AFP on Wednesday that he was not aware of the petition.

Many Tibetans accuse China of trying to water
down their culture in a bid to increase its
control over Tibetan regions, where resentment
against Chinese rule runs deep, and the education
reforms strike at the core of these concerns.

A top official defended the plans on Friday,
saying they aimed to boost both Chinese and the native languages of minorities.

"The plan is aimed at strengthening whatever is
weaker and the purpose is not to use one language
to weaken another," Wang Yubo, head of the
Qinghai education department, was quoted as
saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Rights groups say last week's peaceful protests
were the most significant in the area since March
2008, when violent anti-Chinese demonstrations
that started in Tibet's capital Lhasa spread to neighbouring Tibetan regions.
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