An activist who campaigned for Tibetan language education has been sentenced to five years in prison in China for “inciting separatism.” Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in jail for more than two years, was found guilty by a court in the western Chinese city of Yushu, according to his lawyers.
Tashi was detained in 2016 after appearing in a New York Times documentary talking about his campaign for Tibetan language in local schools. The video, “A Tibetan’s Journey for Justice,” followed Tashi as he travelled from a Tibetan area of Qinghai province to Beijing where he attempted to file a lawsuit against local officials for contravening China’s constitution, which maintains that all ethnicities in China “have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages”.
“Today’s verdict is a gross injustice,” he said. “To brand peaceful activism for Tibetan language as ‘inciting separatism’ is beyond absurd.”
Critics say China’s promotion of Mandarin in Tibet is a deliberate campaign to erase Tibetan culture. Most schools in Tibet use Mandarin as their language of instruction while Tibetan is taught as a subject. Schools are required to use China’s “uniform national curriculum”, which emphasises the history and culture of Han Chinese, China’s dominant ethnic group. Monasteries and private tutors are prohibited from offering Tibetan language classes.
Tashi, a former shopkeeper, learned Tibetan in primary school and from his brother, who had studied with a monk. He set out in 2015 to find a Tibetan language school for his niece, travelling across several provinces but was unable to find any.
He said in the New York Times video, “The local government is controlling the actual Tibetan culture, such as the spoken and written language. It looks like development or help on the surface, but actually the goal is to eliminate our culture.”
Tashi told the newspaper that he was not advocating for Tibetan independence.
Source: The Guardian