Thousands of Tibetan students in western China are protesting against a proposed plan to eliminate or curb the use of Tibetan in schools. The plan advocates switching to Mandarin, China’s official language. Via the New York Times:

The protests are among 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 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 protests this week have mostly unfolded in Tibetan towns in Qinghai Province, a vast, sparsely populated region that is historically important as a center of Tibetan culture.

They began at a high school on Tuesday in the town of Tongren, known as Rebkong in Tibetan, and then widened. More than 1,000 students ended up taking part, according to Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet, two advocacy groups outside China. The protesters adopted a slogan: “Equality of ethnicities, freedom of language.”

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