BEIJING — Thousands of Tibetan students in western China have protested since Tuesday against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools, according to reports from Tibet advocacy groups and photographs and video of the protests circulating on the Internet.
The protests are the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising that began in Lhasa and spread across the Tibetan plateau. But unlike those protests, these have been peaceful and have involved mostly students.
A protest against the proposed policies was also held in Beijing on Friday afternoon, drawing hundreds of Tibetan students at a prominent university that specializes in teaching ethnic minorities, according to witness reports and photographs.
The widespread protests over language reveal the deep resentment that many Tibetans feel over policies formulated by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, that Tibetans say are diluting their culture. Many Tibetans in western China also complain of strict controls over the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including a ban on images of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and large-scale Han migration to Tibetan towns. The Han end up taking many jobs that would otherwise go to Tibetans.
The latest resistance is over a proposal to shift school instruction fully or almost fully to China’s official language, Mandarin.