In a display of cooperation across ethnic lines, Tibetan and Muslim students and their parents came together this week in a public protest to demand better funding for the education of minority groups in northwestern China’s Qinghai province, Tibetan sources said.
Gathering on Jan. 24 outside government offices in the provincial capital Xining, protesters called especially for an investigation into the activities of the education department head of the Bayan Khar (in Chinese, Hualong) Hui Autonomous County in Qinghai’s Tsoshar (Haidong) prefecture, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The protesters were parents and students of Tibetan and Muslim origin belonging to a local school called the Gangjong School,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They are demanding the right to equal education opportunities as granted by the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party and the government,” the source said.
Photos of the protest circulating on social media sites showed protesters carrying a banner reading, “We protest against the head of the [county] education department, Ma Trinlung, for suppressing the right to minority education in poverty-stricken areas and for blocking implementation of the nationalities education policy.”
Under Ma’s administration, “the standard of spoken and written Tibetan has dramatically declined in each village of Palung county,” RFA’s source said, using another name for Bayan.
Founded in 2005 with help from local businesses, the Gangjong School teaches classes to Tibetan and Muslim students in nearby areas, giving instruction in the Tibetan, Chinese, and English languages, among other subjects, Tibetan sources said in postings on social media.
And though China’s central government later agreed to provide additional support and facilities, the county education department has withheld and misappropriated the promised funds, also “belittling the teaching of Tibetan in the school,” sources said.
“School authorities have gone to Xining many times to appeal, but without success,” one source said, adding, “So now the parents and students of the Gangjong School have staged a sit-in protest, urging an investigation by higher-ups in the government.”
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to reassert national identity in recent years, with Chinese authorities frequently giving preference to instruction in Mandarin Chinese and closing Tibetan language classes taught outside the state-controlled education system.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin, Dolkar, and Sonam Lhamo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.