A primary school student writes on the blackboard during a Tibetan language class in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, March 21, 2008.Photo: File

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Dharamshala — A Tibetan student, expressing critique about the declining number of job opportunities for Tibetans, was currently detained by the Chinese authorities. Tibetans are increasingly disadvantaged as civil service exams, requiring proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, are biased towards Chinese students.

This new detention of a Tibetan student illustrates the ongoing government-led crackdown on freedom of expression and free speech in Tibet.

The Chinese government has arrested a Tibetan student called Sonam, at Minzu University in Lanzhou City after he wrote an essay which criticised the falling number of government job opportunities for Tibetans. The master’s degree student was forcefully taken from the Chinese university by the Tibet Education Bureau at the beginning of April after he wrote the essay for his civil service entrance exam.

In his essay, Sonam wrote about the annually decreasing number of opportunities available for Tibetans wishing to take the Chinese national civil service exams. His essay was written in the Chinese language and has been widely shared on popular Chinese social media platforms Weibo and Wechat.

After his arrest, Sonam’s location and condition are unknown and his arrest was linked to the content of his essay, sources said. But it is also not clear whether officials from the Tibet Education Bureau, under China’s Ministry of Education, or authorities acting on their behalf had arrested the student.

The source added that Tibetan students at Northwest Minzu University—a school formerly known as Northwest University for Nationalities which was the first minority institution for higher learning founded after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949—who maintain contact with Tibetan exiles in India “are particularly under surveillance by Chinese authorities.”

In the middle of 2017, China ended a full employment commitment which was created by the previous party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Quanguo. Since the total of advertised jobs in the TAR fell from more than 10,000 before 2017, to 5,844 after the commitment ended. Despite rhetoric claims by Chinese authorities of rising employment, many Tibetans, including young and students have been expressing growing frustration over a lack of government job opportunities available to them in recent years, the source said.

The Chinese government recently claims to have created many government jobs in Tibet, only 210 Tibetan graduates were selected out of 70,000 to sit for the entrance test for the civil service exams this year. But many Tibetan university graduates say the government policy made them increasingly difficult to find jobs in Tibet, and many of those who graduated in 2018 are still left without a job, another source stressed.

The sources said that in 2018, there were 40,000 applicants in the Tibet Autonomous Region alone who sat for the selection test for positions in the civil service, but only around 3,000 passed their tests to end up qualified to be considered for the job positions. With increasingly Chinese university graduates currently coming into Tibetan areas to vie for employment, they said, Tibetans are permitted fewer opportunities and have lost their competitive edge.

Most of Tibetan applicants are unable to find work in private companies and corporations, including high-tech firms or industry, in Tibet, making well-paying jobs in the civil sector a top priority. But in addition to competing with an increased number of Chinese applicants, requirements for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese in testing and consideration for employment have further disadvantaged Tibetan students, as China seeks to promote the dominance of Chinese culture and language in Tibetan areas, sources say.

However, China’s state controlled Xinhua News published an article on April 16; Across China: Favorable ethnic policies bring benefits for Tibetan children. The article profiles a young Tibetan couple working in Beijing, earning a handsome monthly salary and with a high standard of living. The article states that there are many Tibetans who have been benefited from the favorable ethnic policies which enable them to study in better schools and even have the opportunity to go abroad for further studies.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations,” and teachers subject to detention and arrest.

The Chinese Communist totalitarian regime began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.