Tibetan-language protest in Qinghai

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

There have been reports (12) of a protest in the western province of Qinghai, where over 1,000 students yesterday marched about plans to restrict the use of the Tibetan language in schools. The protest was peaceful, and the police made no attempt to stop the demonstration. Free Tibet said the protests were caused by educational reforms already implemented in other parts of the Tibetan plateau, which order all subjects to be taught in Chinese and all textbooks to be written in Chinese, except for Tibetan language and English classes.

I don’t have much to add, other than to say that the same thing is happening in Xinjiang, where the Uighur  language will soon no longer be used in schools and universities. This is not a new phenomena- in 2001, when I taught in Xinjiang, there were already Uighur children who had gone to predominantly Han schools (‘Min Kao Han’ students) who couldn’t read or write Uighur (which is written using a modified Arabic script:

ھەممە ئادەم زاتىدىنلا ئەركىن، ئىززەت-ھۆرمەت ۋە ھوقۇقتا باب-باراۋەر بولۇپ تۇغۇلغان. ئۇلار ئەقىلگە ۋە ۋىجدانغا ئىگە ھەمدە بىر-بىرىگە قېرىنداشلىق مۇناسىۋىتىگە خاس روھ بىلەن مۇئامىلە قىلىشى كېرەك.

(‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’)

Of course, this only matters if you think that language has anything to do with culture or identity. While it is a good thing for everyone to have a language they can communicate in (Chinese, English), this shouldn’t be at the expense of the language that their culture relies on.

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