Tibetan Language Classes Closed

Chinese authorities further restrict assertions of Tibetan national and cultural identity.

Part of the Muge Norwa township in Ngaba prefecture.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Authorities in China’s Sichuan province have banned Tibetan language and culture classes taught informally by volunteers to Tibetan students during their winter break, angering local residents who had sought to promote Tibetan national and cultural identity to their children, according to a local source.

The ban covers at least one township in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, with similar bans in place at monasteries in at least two counties in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The program in Ngaba was initiated last year in the Muge Norwa township of Zungchu (in Chinese, Songpan) county, a man living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan service.

“Local Tibetans welcomed the project. But this year, unfortunately, Chinese authorities objected and shut it down,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Students then gathered to be taught in the courtyard of a private home, but this too was stopped.”

“This has caused strong resentment within the local Tibetan community, and participants in the classes are disappointed at having been deprived of an opportunity to learn their own language and culture,” he said.

Scores jailed

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting national and cultural identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas of China in 2008.

In November, about 1,000 Tibetan students protested in China’s Qinghai province over the release of an official Chinese booklet that ridiculed the Tibetan language as “irrelevant.”  

The booklet also described self-immolations by Tibetans challenging Chinese rule, now totaling 95 since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009, as “acts of stupidity.”

Students burned the offending booklets during the protest and called for “equality among nationalities and freedom to study the Tibetan language.”

And in March, around 700 students from the Rebkong County Middle School of Nationalities returned from a holiday break to find their textbooks for the new term written in Chinese.

“They started ripping the books up and tried to march into the town to call for language rights,” but were stopped by their teachers from proceeding into town, the London-based rights group Free Tibet said.

'Shattered hopes'

Response to the language classes offered this winter in Muge Norwa township had been “very encouraging,” RFA’s source said, adding that even nearby townships had sent over 100 students to participate.

“All hoped that the project would continue,” he said. “Now their hopes have been shattered.”

Tibetan language classes organized by Beri monastery in Kardze prefecture and by monasteries in Dege county have also been banned, he said.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal and Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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