Teachers in China Back Tibetan Students' Demands

Teachers in China Back Tibetan Students' Demands

Hundreds of teachers in northwest China have signed a petition urging provincial authorities to drop plans to end the use of Tibetan as a primary language of instruction.

The petition is dated October 15, days before a series of protest marches by ethnic Tibetan students in Qinghai province. But it shows widespread support among teachers for the students' demands.

The U.S.-based International Campaign for Tibet says the petition contains more than 300 signatures, including those of some students. The group, which has close ties to the Dalai Lama, also says authorities in Qinghai's Gonghe county detained more than 20 students following last week's protests.

The marches began Tuesday in the town of Tongren and quickly spread to other towns, with crowd estimates ranging as high as several thousand.

The New York Times says parts of the petition were posted Monday on a Tibetan-language website, www.khabdha.com.

The newspaper says the petition notes that Article 4 of the Chinese constitution guarantees the right of ethnic groups to use and develop their own languages.

Officials in Qinghai have defended the plan to make Chinese the primary language of instruction, saying it is intended to help the Tibetans to better integrate into Chinese society.

But many Tibetans feel their unique language and customs are in danger of being lost as more and more Han Chinese move into traditional Tibetan areas. Qinghai has a large population of ethnic Tibetans.

Some information for this report was provided by ICT and AFP.