A university student has been detained in central Tibet. Chinese authorities in Riwoche County arrested Choedon (ཆོས་སྒྲོན།) on 13 February and she has not been seen since.
Choedon hails from the village of Yamda (ཡམ་མདའ་སྡེ་བ།) in Riwoche County (རི་བོ་ཆེ།). Although authorities have not disclosed the official reason for her arrest, Choedon’s family believes that it was connected to her teaching the Tibetan language to children in Yamda during the school holidays. Choedon currently studies at Southwest Minzu University in Chengdu.
The source stated: “Choedon was arrested by the Chinese authorities but she has not committed any wrongdoing nor does she have any criminal record. Her family suspects that she was probably arrested for teaching the Tibetan language to children in her village during their winter vacation. Her family is concerned about her safety as it has been more than five days since her arrest and disappearance but there is no clue about where she is being held or her condition”.
The source added that Choedon “used to teach Tibetan children in her village during vacation time and she is active in the preservation and teaching the Tibetan language.”
Repressive language policies in Tibet
Choedon’s arrest comes amid sweeping new language policies from the Chinese government in Tibet. On 1 September 2021, the Chinese government replaced all school textbooks in Tibet with Chinese language teaching materials while the Chinese language has been established as the official medium of instruction in schools at every level from kindergarten to high school.
Chinese authorities have also cut off a number of alternative ways for Tibetan children to learn their mother tongue. Authorities have forcefully shut down Tibetan language schools and private schools where the Tibetan languages were being taught and forbidden Tibetan parents from organising online coaching classes for their children during their summer and winter holidays, a key restriction since most parents prefer to give tuition on Tibetan language and Buddhism during this time. Monasteries are also being forced to teach Buddhism in the Chinese language
The Chinese government has set a goal that by 2025, 85% of those living under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule will speak the national language (“Putonghua” or “common tongue”). This forms part of a wider effort to promote Chinese nationalism to people of different nationalities living under CCP rule, including Tibetans. Research last year by the Tibet Action Institute found that between 800,000 and 900,000 Tibetan children have been separated from their families and placed into boarding schools, where they face political indoctrination.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch
The repression of the Tibetan language has seen schools demolished, children separated from families and also arrests. Rinchen Kyi, a teacher, was arrested last year after her school was forced to close. There is no evidence of her having committed any recognised crime beyond simply teaching Tibetan children their own language. Demand that she be released now.