Chinese authorities have closed an 11-year-old Tibetan private school for poor Tibetan students in China’s Qinghai province after jailing a teacher for alleged involvement in political activities, according to sources.
The school in Chentsa (in Chinese, Jianzha) county at the Malho ( Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was closed in April last year, a local Tibetan said, citing “security reasons” for the delay in reporting the incident without elaborating.
No reasons were given for shutting down the school, which had about 70 students and 10 teachers.
“Last year a group of Chinese officials visited the school on April 25, and ordered the closure of the school,” the Tibetan told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“A teacher named Phakpa, who studied in India, was earlier detained and ordered to be placed in jail for 13 years [after being blamed for involvement in some political activities]. Other teachers were also detained and interrogated but later released,” he said.
The school, which began operations on Aug. 1, 2003, was initially known as Nyishur Ling but the school administration was forced to change it to Malho Jianzha Vocational School, sources said.
It provided virtually free education to students from poor Tibetan families and orphans in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, including from Chentsa and Dzoege (Ruo’ergai) counties and the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Teachers were given free accommodation.
The students were initially taught the Tibetan language and the history of Tibet, but in 2007 the curriculum was expanded to cover Tibetan medicine.
Local sources said the Chinese authorities provided compensation to the school owners and teachers for the closure.
“The authorities paid a compensation of 40,000 yuan [U.S. $6,420] for the text books and computers owned by the school. The teachers were paid 3,000 yuan [U.S. $480] and ordered to go home.”
An ex-student told RFA that the school was apolitical, expressing “disappointment’ over its closure.
“I was a student from the same school. The school had very good facilities, we received good education and the school was not involved in any kind of politics. I was extremely disappointed when the school was closed.”
“Over 200,000 to 300,000 yuan [U.S. $32,110 to $48,170] was invested when the school was started. There were eight buildings and many of them were four-story structures,” the student said.
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to reassert national identity in recent years, with Chinese authorities frequently closing language classes taught outside the state-controlled education system and Tibetan students protesting against the use of textbooks written in Chinese.
Tibetans have long complained about eroding unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions as well as human rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region as well as the Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.