Clampdown in Tibetan Schools

Chinese authorities block student demands to use Tibetan language in their schools.

Machu-Tibetan-Middle-School-Blur-305.jpg The gates of the Tibetan Middle School in Machu county, shown in an undated photo.
Dolkar Kyab

Authorities in the remote western Chinese province of Gansu have stepped up surveillance of Tibetan high schools following a small-scale protest in support of the Tibetan language in schools at the weekend, exiled sources said.

Gonpo, a researcher at the Norbulingka Institute in the hill-town of Dharamsala in northern India, said the renewed protests by Tibetan high-school students last weekend had prompted tight security around local school and college campuses.

"There is very tight surveillance in the classrooms," he said.

"The parents of the students have been required to go to the Machu county center to hold meetings with local government leaders."

"The principals of the schools have been fired, along with two teachers."

He said the two principals had been transferred to other departments within the education bureau, while their deputies had been transferred to other departments entirely.

Students 'taken away'

Local Tibetan sources said earlier this week that a group of two or three students marched in protest to the Machu county center in the Kanlho [in Chinese, Gannan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu.

The students walked for about a mile, carrying a white banner and shouting slogans calling for the independence of Tibet, the source said.

The students, believed to be from the Machu High School, were later taken away by police, who arrived in three vehicles.

Security forces were strengthened in the area, with vehicles positioned at intersections and in the main streets of the Machu county center, Tibetan sources said.

An officer who anwered the phone at the Machu county police department on Tuesday said he didn't know whether any Tibetan students had been detained over the protests in recent days.

And an employee who answered the phone at the county government offices hung up when they heard the reporter's first question.

However, an employee who answered the phone at a local hotel confirmed an increased security presence in the county center.

"There are police on patrol here," she said, but declined to give further details. "It's hard for me to answer you," she said.

Hundreds protest

Gansu saw a wave of protests by Tibetan students last month after the authorities announced plans to drop the Tibetan language as a medium of instruction.

Several hundred students and teachers from high schools in Chentsa [in Chinese, Jianzha] county, in Qinghai's Malho [in Chinese, Huangnan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, took to the streets on Oct. 24 in support of the continued use of Tibetan in local schools.

Exiled Tibetans have said the protests are a sign of long-running dissatisfaction over the suppression of Tibetan cultural and religious freedoms by Beijing.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, has accused Beijing of perpetrating "cultural genocide" in Tibet.

Beijing has run a high-profile "patriotic education" campaign among Tibetans since unrest spread across Tibetan regions from Lhasa in March 2008, requiring local people to denounce the Dalai Lama, whom the government rejects as a "splittist."

Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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