The protest at the Minzu University of China -a leading institute for ethnic minority students- was attended by over 400 Tibetans. The protesters carried banners, written in both Tibetan and Chinese, reading "Equality of ethnicities, freedom of Language," sources said. School officials, including the university's chancellor and Communist Party secretary, met with the students and asked them to submit their concerns on paper, which they then promised to forward to higher authorities.
Photographs showed a large group of students gathered on a concrete walkway lined with shrubs. Other photos showed uniformed guards milling around some students. However, the rally was broken up peacefully after about two hours and no arrests or sanctions have been so far.
The traditional mission of Minzu University is to train students from ethnic minority regions of China who might then return to those regions and work for the government. Departments in the university specialize in scholarship on various cultures in China, and more than 600 Tibetans study on the campus. Telephone calls on Friday afternoon to several offices at the university went unanswered.
Yesterday's protests came as Chinese officials made their first statement relating to the educational reforms and the protests it sparked off.
Wang Yubo, head of the Qinghai education department, said that the plan aimed to boost both Chinese and the native languages of minorities. This statement is seen by many Tibetan campaigners as an effort to subdue the media's attention. One Free Tibet campaigner called yesterday's statement as "A lie to turn the media away from Tibet, after that the arrests and reforms will happen behind closed doors"
In the report made late on Friday night, Wang Yubo stated "The plan is aimed at strengthening whatever is weaker and the purpose is not to use one language to weaken another."
Changes won't be forced in areas where "conditions are not ripe," cited Wang Yubo. The report did not elaborate on how officials would make that determination.
The official Xinhua News Agency gave the first public report about the Tibetan protests that have spread through-out China and been attended by thousands of people. The agency stated that students had "expressed their dissatisfaction" in at least four Tibetan prefectures in Qinghai between last Sunday and Wednesday.
The Tibet Post has learned that the local governor and education department visited a teacher's college in Tongren on Wednesday and threatened to expel students who organize additional marches.