Tibetan Students Threaten Protests Over Fee Hikes, Remote Facilities

2016-09-22
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The entrance to Lanzhou's Northwest University of Nationalities is shown in an undated photo.
The entrance to Lanzhou's Northwest University of Nationalities is shown in an undated photo.
Photo sent by an RFA listener

Updated at 07:55 EST on 2016-09-23

Tibetan students enrolled at a large university in northwestern China’s Gansu province are challenging an exorbitant hike in school fees and their forced move to a remote campus without residence halls or a library, warning they will protest if their concerns are not addressed, Tibetan sources say.

Students at the Northwest University for Nationalities in the provincial capital Lanzhou found their fees raised this year from 4,230 yuan [U.S. $635 approx.] to 8,220 yuan [U.S. $1,233 approx.], burdening young Tibetans coming from nomadic areas with “severe economic hardship,” a source living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Moreover, Tibetan students enrolled in the department of vocational training and continuing education have been moved to a new campus without residence facilities or a library, and though classes have already begun at the main campus, no classes have been held in the new location,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The instructors who speak Tibetan are also finding it difficult to travel there,” he said.

On Sept. 20, Tibetan students called on school administrators to improve their conditions, asking also that students coming from impoverished Tibetan areas in western Chinese provinces be exempted from the hike in fees, he said.

“They especially asked their teachers in the Tibetan language section to voice their own concerns to the relevant authorities, since the students themselves feel they have no voice,” he said.

“If their requests are not addressed, they will launch some kind of movement, they say.”

Speaking separately, a University graduate told RFA the school’s new policy may be an attempt by Han Chinese officials at higher levels to marginalize the school’s Tibetan students and department.

“This may be an attempt to undermine the teaching of the Tibetan language, to assign new staff, and to move Tibetan teachers away from their responsibilities,” he said.

University administrators in Lanzhou were not immediately available for comment.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story did not refer to the specific university department in which the moved students are enrolled.

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