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Tibet language protests spread in China: rights group

October 25, 2010

October 22, 2010

BEIJING -- Protests by Tibetan students demanding
the right to study in their language have spread
to other areas of northwestern China, a London-based Tibet rights group said.

Thousands of middle school students had protested
Tuesday in Qinghai province's Malho Tibetan
Autonomous Prefecture in anger at being forced to
study in the Chinese language, Free Tibet said.

But the protests have since spread to two
adjacent Tibetan prefectures in the remote
region, it said in a statement Thursday.

About 2,000 students from four schools in the
town of Chabcha in Tsolho prefecture marched on
Wednesday to the local government building,
chanting "We want freedom for the Tibetan language," the group said.

They were later turned back by police and teachers, it said.

Students also protested on Thursday in the town
of Dawu in the Golog Tibetan prefecture. Police
responded by preventing local residents from
going out into the streets, it said.

Local government officials in both areas denied any protests.

"We have had no protests here. The students are
calm here," said an official with the Gonghe
county government in Tsolho, who identified himself only by his surname Li.

Local officials in China face pressure from their
seniors to maintain stability and typically deny
reports of unrest in their areas.

The protests were sparked by education reforms in
Qinghai requiring all subjects to be taught in
Mandarin and all textbooks to be printed in
Chinese except for Tibetan-language and English classes, Free Tibet said.

"The use of Tibetan is being systematically wiped
out as part of China?s strategy to cement its
occupation of Tibet," Free Tibet said earlier this week.

The area was the scene of violent anti-Chinese
protests in March 2008 that started in Tibet's
capital Lhasa and spread to nearby regions with
large Tibetan populations such as Qinghai.

While Qinghai officially lies outside the borders
China has set for the Tibet region, much of it is
part of the traditional Tibetan homeland.

Many Tibetans accuse China of a campaign to water
down their culture in a bid to increase its
control over the remote Himalayan region, where
resentment against Chinese rule runs deep.

China has established "autonomous" regions for
some of its dozens of ethnic groups but many
members of those groups complain that policy is
aimed at merely giving the appearance of autonomy
while Chinese control remains tight.
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