In October 2021, Chinese police authorities in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region arrested three Tibetan children from their boarding school in Markham County (སྨར་ཁམས་རྫོང་།) under the pretext of needing psychological counselling.
The arrest took place at their secondary school during a time of looming sadness and displeasure amongst Tibetan students over the Chinese government’s language policies in Tibet. Two months earlier, the Chinese government announced the implementation of a new education policy, that had ruled out classes in their mother tongue. The three children, whose homes are in Pangda village (སྤང་མདའ་སྡེ་བ།) have been taken to a so-called ‘reform through education centre’ in Markham County, Chamdo. In the five months since their arrest, little is known of the well-being of the 16- year-old boy Palsangin Markham County and two girls, Sermo and Yangkyi, who are just 15 and 11 years old.
A Tibetan source told Tibet Watch that “authorities have been aggressively pursuing a policy of universalization of Chinese language or Mandarin Chinese education in all the schools in the Markham region, while emphasising love for China, the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and patriotism. When Tibetan children [at the school] expressed that they are unhappy without Tibetan classes and expressed their problem, three students were arrested and forcefully taken away under the pretext of needing psychological counselling.”
Prior to the language policy coming into effect in September 2021, all school textbooks in local languages – including Tibetan – have been replaced by those written in Mandarin Chinese, and teachers have also been forced to deliver classes in Mandarin Chinese.
Students arrested and Tibetan school shut down
News related to the policy’s implementation first emerged in August 2021 when a 19-year-old student in Ngaba was arrested after he refused to attend a propaganda meeting called “Meeting on Praising the Communist Party of China and Education on the Security Agenda”. He had previously submitted a petition to the education authorities appealing for his school to be allowed to teach in Tibetan.
In the same month, Chinese authorities threatened the closure of Gyalten Getsa Tibetan school in Kardze, if the school did not change their curriculum and medium of instruction to Chinese and change the school’s examinations to the Chinese language. Three students in Golog were also detained in August and December 2021 after they expressed concerns and disagreement about the policy on the online-messaging application WeChat.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch