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Security Tight in Tibetan Towns

October 25, 2010

Following large protests, Chinese authorities
dispatch security personnel to Tibetan areas.
Radio Free Asia
October 22, 2010

HONG KONG -- Chinese authorities in the remote
western province of Qinghai dispatched large
numbers of security personnel to Tibetan areas
following large-scale student protests over education policies this week.

Local sources said thousands of Tibetan high
school and college students took part in the
demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday in Tsolho
(in Chinese, Hainan) and Rebkong (in Chinese,
Tongren) amid fears they will be forced to adopt
a Chinese-language-only curriculum.

An official who answered the phone at the Rebkong
county education department said there were no demonstrations on Thursday.

"Things are calm now," she said, but declined to
comment further. "You should ask my boss these questions," she said.

A monk at the Longwu temple who took part in the
demonstrations said there were dozens of army
vehicles and personnel still on the streets
Wednesday, according to exiled Tibetan sources.

"There are large numbers of them, but we can't be
sure of the exact number," said Dzoege, a
researcher at the International Campaign for
Tibet. "We only know that there were between 20 and 30 army trucks."

The protest began on Tuesday, sparked by students
from the Tongren County No.1 Middle School. They
shouted slogans such as "Racial equality! Free education!" as they marched.

Teachers protest monk participation

The monk said that when he and others from the
Longwu monastery joined the march, some of the
teachers at the scene objected, saying the issue
was an educational one, not a political one.

An official who answered the phone at the Rebkong
country education department said that all the
top-level officials were out dealing with the incident.

Authorities on Wednesday moved to calm tensions as the protests spread.

A local governor addressed students and assured
them that the Tibetan language would remain in
the school curriculum even though an official
document said the Chinese language would be the main language of instruction.

The education department official said the
authorities had not backtracked on the plan to use Chinese in schools.

"No, we haven't [changed our language policy in
response to the protest]," she said.

"Classes are still running normally," she said,
adding that the high school students who
protested were "unlikely" to be punished for taking part.

Calls to the Rebkong county police department
went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

'Kicking up a fuss'

An employee who answered the phone at the
Telecommunications Guesthouse in Rebkong's county
seat said the march was not as large as 1,000 students.

Estimates of protest size given by Tibetan
sources ranged from as low as 1,000 to as high as 5,000-8,000.

"There weren't very many people. They were all
from a single school," she said. "Before, Tibetan
was the main medium of instruction, and now it
will only be an available subject, and Chinese
will be the main language of instruction."

"That's why they are kicking up a fuss."

A local resident surnamed Lan said Chinese had
been the main language of instruction in all the
schools he had attended in the region.

"There is a school here which specializes in
Chinese-medium teaching, and one which
specializes in Tibetan-language instruction," Lan said.

"You can be taught in Tibetan or Chinese from
year one, as if it's your native tongue."

"A lot of the Tibetans here are herders. Of
course they can't understand Chinese," Lan added.

U.S.-based Chinese political analyst Wang Juntao
said a number of misunderstandings had occurred
between Tibetans and Han Chinese during the Tibetan unrest of 2008.

"We all know that the language you use to teach
people in a given country or region is a clear
sign of ethnic identity," Wang said.

"If all the teaching gets done in Mandarin, with
Tibetan relegated to the status of special
subject, then that's probably going a bit far," he said.

China "otherizing" ethnic groups

Dawa Tsering, spokesman for the Tibetan
government-in-exile based in northern India, said
the Chinese government appeared to be in the
process of "otherizing" different ethnic groups in China.

"There has been a long-running dissatisfaction of
this kind in Tibet," he said. "Now, some Tibetan
students are standing up ... because previously
they were teaching dialectical materialism and
Marxism ... but they were doing it in Tibetan."

"The Chinese government can't tolerate this," he
said. "There is a direct connection between [this
protest] and cultural and religious freedoms."

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 Bi Zimo, and
in Mandarin by Tang Qiwei and Qiao Long.
Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
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