DHARAMSHALA, March 9: Tibetan school students in Rebkong, eastern Tibet carried out a large protest calling for language rights after they were issued textbooks in Chinese language.
Around 700 students of the Rebkong County National Middle School, Rongwo Town, took part in the protests Sunday, March 4.
London based Free Tibet in a release yesterday said the students were “enraged” when they found their textbooks were in Chinese language upon their return to the boarding school after holidays.
“The students from grade 1 and 2 (about ten classes) of the senior section were enraged to discover that their new textbooks for politics, history, geography, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics, which were previously in Tibetan, were now in Chinese,” the release said.
“They started ripping the books up and tried to march into the town to call for language rights.”
However, the students were stopped by their teachers and headmaster from proceeding any further.
According to the group, the teachers feared that the consequences of protesting, for both the school and the students, would be much more severe than usual given the ongoing wave of self-immolations and protests in Tibet.
In order to quell the situation, the vice-director of the County Education Bureau visited the school and explained that the Chinese language textbooks were issued, as Tibetan textbooks could not be printed on time.
Although the students were assured that Tibetan textbooks would be ready by September this year, the release said the students were “dubious” about the explanation.
“China’s policy to eliminate Tibetan language, in an effort to erode Tibetan identity, is reflective of the daily abuses bringing ordinary Tibetans to protest in increasing numbers,” the release quoted a former teacher as saying.
“These young students, like a growing number of Tibetans, are using protest to demand change on the issues that matter to them.”
In October 2010, thousands of school students in Rebkong had marched on the streets, protesting a Chinese government decision to replace Tibetan with Chinese language as the medium of instruction in Tibetan schools.