Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in China’s northwestern Qinghai province have fired a school director and jailed and expelled students for protesting Chinese policies in Tibetan areas, sources said.
The protest and subsequent crackdown last week came amid a wave of self-immolation protests by Tibetans calling for freedom from rule by Beijing, along with growing opposition to a change in the language of instruction from Tibetan to Chinese in local schools.
“On March 26, Chinese authorities in Kangtsa county of the Tsojang [in Chinese, Haibei] prefecture cracked down on 17 students and the head of the Kangtsa School of Nationalities,” Wangden Gyal, a Tibetan monk living in South India told RFA, citing sources in the region.
The students and their principal had gone to the county government offices and called for “freedom for Tibet, the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama, and the freedom to use their own language in school,” Wangden Gyal said.
The protesters also expressed their “solidarity” with the 33 Tibetan self-immolators—monks, nuns, and laypersons—who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated areas, he said.
“While the students were protesting, Chinese police and armed paramilitary police assaulted and detained them,” Wangden Gyal said.
“Now, three students have been sentenced to jail, five have been expelled from the school, and seven or eight are still being held for investigation.”
“Yudrung Gyaltsen, the head of the school, was fired on suspicion of involvement in the students’ protest,” Wangden Gyal said.
The age of the jailed students, and details concerning the nature of the charges made against them, were not immediately clear.
Tibetans have reignited a campaign to highlight language rights in Tibetan-populated areas, with about 4,000 students taking to the streets in Qinghai on March 14 to protest a proposed change in the medium of instruction in schools.
It was the biggest protest since October 2010, when thousands of Tibetan middle and primary school students from four Tibetan prefectures in Qinghai province demonstrated for days against a language change policy.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.