A Tibetan activist is speaking out again against language restrictions after spending five years in prison for discussing the issue with Western media, RFA has learned.
Tashi Wangchuk, a resident of Yulshul County in western China’s Sichuan Province, was released on January 28, 2021, after serving a prison term for “inciting separatism” and is now subject to quasi-surveillance. constant by the authorities.
Wangchuk, who is around 35, this month appealed to Chinese authorities to allow the use of Tibetan in schools, government jobs and other sectors of Tibetan public life, but was summoned and questioned on 17 January by local police, the language rights attorney said on his Weibo social media account the following day.
“One of the questions I was asked during the interrogation was who gave me the responsibility to advocate for the use of the Tibetan language,” Wangchuk said.
“I think Yulshul city officials and the police department are just using their power to prevent the public from addressing these issues and advocating for the use of their own language.
“This is how the Tibetan language has been endangered, and this is how I educate government officials about the language rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
Since no exams are allowed in the Tibetan language for Tibetans applying for government jobs, young Tibetans have no choice but to study Chinese in their schools and ignore their own language, Wangchuk wrote on his Weibo account on January 3.
“The situation has become so serious that some of them can’t even read or write in Tibetan anymore,” he said.
Wangdhen Kyab, senior researcher at London-based Tibet Watch, told RFA that officials in government offices in Tibet have already been required to learn and understand the Tibetan language.
“But now the situation has completely changed, and the Tibetan language has become increasingly marginalized under China’s so-called bilingual education policy,” he said.
“Even after spending five long years in a Chinese prison, Tashi Wangchuk continues to defend and fight for the Tibetan language, which shows that it is not only a concern for an individual or his family, but for the long-term protection and survival of the Tibetan language.
“Tashi Wangchuk has spoken out fearlessly on this, and we can see he will continue to do so despite constant harassment and warnings from the Chinese government,” Kyab said.
While China claims to defend the rights of all minorities to access bilingual education, Tibetan-language schools have been forced to close and school-aged children in Tibet are routinely taught only in Mandarin Chinese.
Similar policies have been deployed against ethnic Mongols in Chinese Inner Mongolia and Muslim Uyghurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.
Once an independent nation, Tibet was forcibly invaded and incorporated into China 70 years ago.
Language rights have become a particular focus of Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language classes in monasteries and towns deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention. and arrest, sources said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.