China Closes Tibetan Schools

Chinese authorities move to restrict expressions of Tibetan culture and identity.

An undated photo of students at the orphanage school in Luchu county which was closed down.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Chinese authorities have closed two Tibetan private schools in the Gansu and Qinghai provinces and detained at least five staff as authorities moved to restrict assertions of national identity in Tibetan-populated areas of western China, sources in the region say.

One facility, an orphanage school set up in Luchu county in Gansu’s Kanlho (Gannan) prefecture, was ordered closed early in May while the other school in Dzatoe county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture was shut in February,  the sources said.

The Luchu Private Orphanage School “was ordered closed on May 7 or 8,” a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

“The reasons given were the school’s focus on teaching Tibetan language, speech, and culture, as well as the composition by the head of the school of a song containing ‘separatist’ contents,” he said.

The school’s director, Atsun Tsondru Gyatso, disappeared in January 2011 after being questioned several times by county authorities, leaving the administration of the school to two senior teachers.

Atsun Tsondru Gyatso had also angered authorities by writing a book, called The Black Book, which presented facts about Tibet’s history considered sensitive by China.

“Local Tibetans suspect that he was taken away in secret by Chinese officials, but no one knows for sure,” the source said.

The two teachers left in charge of the school—Sangye Dondrub, 33, and Jamyang, 28—were both detained by police when the school was closed on May 7 or 8.

Scores jailed

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity since widespread protests swept Tibet and the Tibetan-populated provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu in 2008.

Authorities in Dzatoe county in February closed  a school that promoted literacy in Tibetan and detained the school’s director, Lama Gewa, a second Tibetan source said, also on condition he not be named.

“This project was started by a monk named Lama Gewa and a colleague to instruct students in the pure Tibetan language and to live according to pure Tibetan traditions by speaking Tibetan and not Chinese,” he said.

The school’s curriculum included daily religious recitations and prayers for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, considered a separatist by Beijing, the source said.

“So on Feb. 12, 2012, Dzatoe county officials ordered Lama Gewa to stop all school activities,” he said, adding that Lama Gewa and two colleagues were then taken into custody.

“On that same day, over 800 students went to the county center to demand their release,” he said.

Though the three detainees were released that afternoon, officials began investigations at the school and secretly detained Lama Gewa again on March 8.

“It is said he has been sentenced to two years in jail in [the provincial capital] Xining, but this is not confirmed,” he said.

Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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