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Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have detained two Tibetan students accused of opposing the use of the Chinese language as the only medium of instruction in Tibetan schools, Tibetan sources say.
Identified as Gyuldrak and Yangrik, the two 19-year-old residents of Darlag county in Qinghai’s Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture were taken into custody on Tuesday by Chinese police, a Tibetan living in the region told RFA.
The two Middle School students are believed to have drawn police attention by speaking on the WeChat social media platform against a Chinese policy mandating, beginning in September, that all classes in local schools be taught only in Chinese.
Tibetan parents are being instructed to pick up the new Chinese-language textbooks in place of the older Tibetan texts when they go for COVID-19 testing, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The new language policy has already aroused widespread opposition among Tibetans in neighboring Sichuan, where Tibetan private schools have been closed and children sent to government schools amid parents’ concerns for their children’s connection to their native Tibetan language and culture.
Gyuldrak and Yangrik are now being held at the Darlag county police station, RFA’s source said.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses in the monasteries and towns deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.
Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.