10/20/2010, 00.00
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Tibetan students protest against the abolition of their language at school

by Nirmala Carvalho
Gradually, Beijing introduces Chinese as mother tongue in Tibetan schools. The Tibetan language is increasingly marginalized as well as the Tibetans at work. Activists: it is a slow inexorable cultural genocide.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Between 7 and 9 thousand Tibetan students took to the streets yesterday morning at 7 in the city of Rongwo, Rebkong County (Chinese: Tongren) in the prefecture of Malhi (Huangnan) in Qinghai, to protest against the abolition of the Tibetan language in education and in their textbooks, replaced by Chinese. A Tibetan activist talks to AsiaNews about Beijing's systematic genocide against dozens of ethnic minorities in the country.

The students (photo) went from school to school in Rebkong, collecting more and more protesters, chanting slogans and displaying banners that read "Equality between the nationalities" and "Expand the use of Tibetan language." Monks of the nearby monastery of Rebkong Rongpo joined the protest.

The protesters marched to government buildings in Rebkong, where they protested until about 2pm. The police observed without intervening.

The protest erupted after the authorities decided that the language of lectures and textbooks must be in Chinese, except of course language lessons. Similar reforms have been already applied in other Tibetan areas, including primary schools, and the Tibetan language is marginalized in a systematic and progressive manner.

A junior high school teacher in Rebkong says that "these reforms remind me of the Cultural Revolution. This reform not only threatens our native language, but violates the Chinese Constitution which recognizes the protection of our rights [as a minority]. For Tibetans, the Chinese Constitution does not apply".

Furthermore, the reform means redundancy and unemployment for many Tibetan teachers, replaced by others of the Chinese language.

Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, tells AsiaNews that "China has 55 ethnic minority groups and Tibetans are one of them.  Not all the minorities are treated equally, there is severe discrimination in language.  The students were demanding also freedom for Language and literature, in the recent past, China has intensified their arbitrary detention and arrests of the intellectuals and this is causing much alarm among the student community.  Moreoever, the medium of instructions is Chinese and not Tibetan and there is discrimination in the field of education leading to a widespread discrimination in recruitment for jobs and high rate of unemployment.    Even when Tibetan children attend school, they face serious barriers. A primary barrier is the use of Chinese as the teaching language in many schools in Tibet. At the middle school level in Tibet, only 17 percent of students attended schools where Tibetan was the main teaching language.  Added to the use of a "foreign" language for the Tibetan students is the issue of subject content that emphasizes Chinese culture at the expense of Tibetan culture."
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