China Questions Classmates, Friends of Tibetan Student Who Posted Politically Sensitive Essay

2019-05-03
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Tibetan students attend a language class at a school in Lhasa in a file photo.
Tibetan students attend a language class at a school in Lhasa in a file photo.
AP

Authorities in northwestern China’s Gansu province have broadened their investigation into the case of a Tibetan university student unhappy with poor government job opportunities for Tibetans, now questioning his classmates and close acquaintances, Tibetan sources say.

Sonam Lhundrub, a graduate student at Northwest Minzu University in Gansu’s Lanzhou city, was detained earlier this month after an essay he wrote lamenting a decline in job openings for Tibetans in Tibetan regions of China went viral on social media, sources told RFA in earlier reports

Lhundrub, a native of Riwoche county in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture, is still being held in detention, “and the Chinese authorities interrogate him daily,” a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Classmates and other acquaintances are now also being questioned as authorities widen their investigation, RFA’s source said, adding, “I’m afraid I may soon be picked up by the Chinese myself.”

Lhundrub’s essay, which he wrote for his civil service exams, has now been taken down from the internet, but another essay praising the contributions of Tibetan religious leaders to Tibetan culture is still circulating widely on popular Tibetan news sites, the source said.

“The essay’s main argument is that without the lamas [senior teachers] and monks, the Tibetan language cannot survive, and that without the Tibetan language, Tibetan Buddhism cannot survive. Therefore, the lamas and monks are the ‘heart’ of the Tibetan people,” he said.

“The essay has been read by over 27,000 people so far, with many positive comments.”

Also speaking to RFA, Pema Gyal—a researcher at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy—said that Lhundrub is now in the custody of China’s Tibetan Education Bureau.

More jobs for Chinese

“Because Sonam is a student at the university, he is currently being held by the Bureau, as the Bureau oversees all matters related to education in the Tibet Autonomous Region under China,” he said.

Tibetans in Tibetan regions of China have increasingly expressed frustration over a lack of coveted government jobs in recent years, despite claims by local officials to have increased employment opportunities, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

In February, sources told RFA that Tibetan university graduates are facing increasing difficulty finding jobs in Tibetan regions of China, with Han Chinese flooding job markets and civil service exams slanted more and more toward Han applicants.

The sources said that in 2018, there were 40,000 applicants in the Tibet Autonomous Region alone who sat for the entrance exam for positions in the Chinese civil service, but that only about 3,000 passed their exams to become eligible to be considered for government positions.

Meanwhile, with more Chinese university graduates now coming into Tibetan areas to compete for jobs, ethnic Tibetans are allowed fewer opportunities and have lost their competitive edge, the sources said.

The majority of Tibetan applicants are unable to find work in private companies and corporations, including high-tech firms or industry, in Tibet, making well-paying jobs in the civil sector a top priority.

Requirements for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese in testing and consideration for employment have further disadvantaged Tibetan students, as China seeks to promote the dominance of Chinese culture and language in Tibetan areas, sources say.

Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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