Dharamsala, October 20 – A Chinese government decision to replace Tibetan as medium of instruction by Chinese language in Tibetan schools in Qinghai province has sparked off a major protest by Tibetan students and monks, reported the Radio Free Asia.

(photo: voa news)

Thousands of Tibetan students took part in the protest Tuesday in Rebkong (Ch:Tongren) in Malho prefecture in Qinghai, the RFA reported citing a Tibetan source in the area.

(photo: RFA) Students march in Rebkong, Oct. 19, 2010.

The students from six different schools — the First Nationalities Middle School of Rebkong Tongren, the Tongren County Yifu Nationalities Middle School, the Tongren District Residential School, the Tongren Modern Medicine College, the Malho National Teacher Training Institute, and the Malho Nationalities Middle School — gathered to express their opposition to the decision.

Tongren Map.jpg

(photo: RFA)

The protesters held banners, in both Tibetan and Chinese that read “Equality Among Nationalities” and “Expand the Use of the Tibetan Language,” sources toldRFA.

Monks from nearby Rebkong Rongpo monastery also joined the protest despite the students asking them not to take part, a monk in Rebkong told RFA.

“They feared that the monks’ involvement could provoke the Chinese authorities to send armed Public Security Bureau officers to crack down on the protesters,” the monk was quoted by RFA.

The protest began at the Tongren Nationalities Middle School in the morning and continued until 2PM, a Tibetan resident of Tongren said.

Around 20 to 30 police vehicles surrounded the protesters, the source said, adding however that no detentions or arrests were made.

Another Tibetan living in Rebkong said that prefecture officials, Ah Gendun, the deputy head of the Malho prefecture, and Seru Gyaltsen, head of the Malho Education Department appealed for calm, and assured that the matter would be taken up with senior authorities of the prefecture and province.

Another source said a local Communist Party Secretary and Chairman ordered the language used in textbooks must be changed to Chinese during a recent meeting. “They never opened the issue for discussion,” the source added.

The source said the provincial authorities ordered the Tibetan teachers to attend workshops on the change of the medium of instruction from Tibetan to Chinese. “If this plan is implemented, many Tibetan teachers will lose their jobs, and many Chinese will gain jobs in their place. This is a major concern for the Tibetan community,” he added.

“The number of Tibetans admitted to schools in the area was also reduced, and some Tibetan teachers and staff were fired from their jobs for no apparent reason.”

Watch an amateur video of the protest here (Video courtesy RFA)