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China Closes Tibetan School in Qinghai, Leaving Many Students Adrift

Tibetan students at the Sengdruk Taktse Middle School in Qinghai's Darlag county - photo from Tibet
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Sangyal Kunchok | Radio Free Asia

The move comes amid a regionwide push by Chinese authorities to close schools promoting Tibetan culture and offering classroom instruction in the Tibetan language.

Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county of northwestern China’s Qinghai province have shut down a Tibetan-run private school, forcing some students to enroll in government schools but leaving others who have no families to fend for themselves, Tibetan sources say.

The Sengdruk Taktse School, located in Darlag (in Chinese, Dali) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was closed without explanation on July 8 amid a regionwide clampdown on schools promoting Tibetan culture and offering instruction in the Tibetan language, sources said.

Many of the students who attended the popular Middle School are now enrolled in schools affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA, citing contacts in the Darlag region.

“However, those of the students who are orphans now have nowhere to go and have been left unattended,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And huge restrictions are being placed on the teachers who had taught at Sengdruk to prevent them from helping the orphaned students.”

Darlag-area students who had studied at Sengdruk have now been divided into different sections and sent to study at separate schools, while students who had come to Sengdruk from areas such as Derge, Dzachu, and Kyungchu in Sichuan are having trouble finding schools to take them in, the source said.

Almost a month after Sengdruk Taktse was closed, Chinese authorities arrested one of its longest-serving teachers, Rinchen Kyi, accusing her of inciting separatism, a charge frequently used against Tibetans promoting the preservation of Tibet’s language and culture in the face of domination by China’s majority Han population.

Rinchen Kyi was taken into custody on Aug. 1 and brought to Qinghai’s capital Xining to be detained, London-based Free Tibet said in an Aug. 10 report.

Other schools threatened

Other schools in Golog offering classes outside China’s government-mandated curriculum have now been warned they may also be closed, a Tibetan living in the area said, also speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“With the shutting down of the Sengdruk Taktse school, authorities have also told many private schools in the region they may be shut down eventually,” he said.

“Schools such as the Golog Ragya Jigme Gyaltsen School and the Golog Tadrak Private Orphanage School are under constant watch by the Chinese government,” the source said, adding, “For now, they have not been told they must close, but you never know what the future may hold for schools like these.”

Authorities in neighboring Sichuan also have also begun this year to close down private Tibetan schools offering classes taught in the Tibetan language, forcing students to go instead to government-run schools where they will be taught entirely in Chinese, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

The move is being pushed in the name of providing uniformity in the use of textbooks and instructional materials, but parents of the affected children and other local Tibetans have expressed concern over the imposed requirements, saying that keeping young Tibetans away from their culture and language will have severe negative consequences for the future.

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.

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