Beijing's lack of sensitivity angers Tibetan students

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am

Tibetan students have protested in the province of Qinghai over 'reported plans to impose Chinese as the main language of instruction' ('Language protests see security tightened', October 26).

A local Tibetan teacher was quoted as saying that the move would create a serious linguistic barrier as 'more than 90 per cent of our students are Tibetans' ('Tibetan student language protests spread', October 23).

Clearly the central government wants to pave the way for a single spoken language in the country which will enable it to exercise firmer control in Tibet. However, this time, Beijing has gone too far.

As China has grown stronger in terms of economic and scientific development, Putonghua has become the second most popular spoken language in the world.

More people are learning to speak it. In Hong Kong, some schools have begun to switch the medium of instruction from Cantonese to Putonghua in subjects like Chinese and Chinese history. More Hong Kong graduates are opting to work on the mainland, and students in the SAR are encouraged to improve their command of the language.

However, this must not mean that other dialects in the country should be eliminated.

China comprises people of different ethnic minorities and religions. People have a basic right to speak their language of choice.

It would be cruel to force Tibetans to speak only Putonghua in classes. Every language and dialect has its own unique history.

While I understand restrictions were placed on administrative autonomy in Tibet, this has already generated negative feelings among the Tibetans towards Chinese.

Depriving them of the right to speak and teach in their own language is unacceptable and unwise.

Not only is it cruel to require the Tibetan students to be educated in Putonghua, but it is also impractical as teachers will find it difficult to adjust as most of them cannot speak fluent Putonghua.

I realise an argument has been put forward that the policy is part of a government drive to increase job opportunities.

If that is the case, the government is not going about it in the right way.

It may have been a well-intended move to solve the problem of poor command of Putonghua leading to poor job opportunities, but it has backfired.

It has resulted in protests on the streets and through the internet by teenagers.

It is important for the central government to handle problems and issues over ethnic minorities in the country with extra care, because there is growing animosity towards the seemingly much better-off mainland Chinese.

The leadership in Beijing should be seeking to ensure peace and unity among the many different races in this huge country.

Dora Cheong Hin-yue, Tsuen Wan