The Tibetan students from Amdho region, Rebkong County (also known as Tongren) called for respect of their ancient culture, according to information received by The Tibet Post on Tuesday. The protesters carried banners, written in both Tibetan and Chinese, reading "Equality Among minorities" and "freedom of the Tibetan Language," sources said.
The anger was sparked by recent educational reforms in Amdo Province requiring all subjects to be taught in Mandarin and all textbooks to be printed in Chinese except for Tibetan-language and English classes. Tibetan teachers are also now required to attend workshops on the change of the language used in class from Tibetan to Chinese.
"The Chinese are enforcing reforms which remind me of the 10 year Cultural Revolution," said one unnamed former Rebkong teacher.
"This reform is not only a threat to our mother tongue, but is in direct violation of the Chinese constitution, which is meant to protect our rights."
The protests began on Tuesday morning at the First Nationalities Middle School and continued until about 2 p.m. The students marched from one school to the next, as they gathered a mass protest which then gathered around the county government building.
The schools that took part in Tuesday’s protests were: First Nationalities Middle School of Rebkong Tongren, the Tongren County Yifu Nationalities Middle School, the Tongren District Residential School, the Tongren Modern Medicine College, the Malho National Teacher Training Institute and the Malho Nationalities Middle School.
London based human rights group, Free Tibet put the number of demonstrators at between 5,000 and 9,000, citing witnesses. However, source’s figures vary, some stating that there were only about 1,000 protestors.
Monks from nearby Rebkong Rongpo monastery joined in the protest after it began, though the students at first asked them not to take part, fearing that their involvement may incite armed Public Security Bureau officers to crack down on the protesters.
The students and monks dispersed in the early afternoon after government officials came out and talked with them, attempting to reassure them that their concerns have been noted by the authorities.
It has been reported that no detentions or arrests have been made in relation to the protest and as yet there are no signs of stepped up policing in Rebkong following the incident. However, reports say it is likely that arrests will take place in the days and weeks ahead