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Tibetans protest language curbs

world Updated: Oct 20, 2010 23:48 IST

At least 1,000 Tibetan students took to the streets of China's western Qinghai province on Tuesday in a rare protest against curbs on using their language in schools, residents and exiles said on Wednesday.

Police did not attempt to halt the peaceful demonstration in Tongren, also known as Rebkong, a predominantly Tibetan area that saw unrest in spring 2008.

Three residents contacted by telephone told Reuters that at least 1,000 students had demonstrated.

The campaign group Free Tibet said witnesses reported that between 5,000 and 9,000 students took to the streets

in the early morning chanting: “We want equality of nation-ality, we want equality of culture.”.

A monk in Tongren told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that lamas from the Rongpo monastery joined the protest, although students initially asked them not to because they feared it would provoke a police crackdown.

“They [the protesters] went home in the early afternoon after government officials came out and talked with them,” a resident told Reuters, saying there was no sign of stepped up policing in Tongren following the incident. The resident asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Calls to the police and local government were not answered.

But Free Tibet said it was concerned protesters might be detained or otherwise punished in weeks to come.

The group 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.

Beijing has long promoted standard Mandarin across the country. Although it officially pursues a policy of bilingual education in Tibetan areas, many complain that in reality Tibetan is marginalised and they fear their culture is being eradicated.