A number of prominent Tibetans, including retired Chinese government officials and educationalists, in Qinghai province have submitted a daring and extensive petition calling for the scrapping of proposed education reforms that they say contravene Chinese laws and fear will lead to Tibetan being sidelined as the language of instruction in Tibetan areas.
Enacting the proposed education reforms, the petitioners argue, would be “in serious contempt of the authority of the nation’s laws. Unless the National People’s Congress revises the Autonomy Law, an administrative office, such as a provincial-level government office, has absolutely no authority to exceed the principles and provisions of a basic law by issuing regulations without authority and in contravention of the law.”
Copies of the petition, dated October 24, 2010, were sent to the provincial education department in Xining, the Ministry of Education in Beijing, key Chinese Communist Party offices at the national and provincial level, and offices in the six Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Qinghai province. The document, which is remarkably detailed in its scope and analysis, is translated into English by ICT and enclosed below. It includes recommendations on a way ahead that would ensure “stability” and the protection and development of the Tibetan language.
The petition is dated less than a week after protests involving thousands of students broke out in towns and on school campuses across the Tibetan region of Amdo that encompasses large parts of Qinghai province, with a similar protest by Tibetan students also reported at Minzu University in Beijing. (ICT report, Protests by students against downgrading of Tibetan language spread to Beijing – October 22, 2010) The protests had started on October 19 in the town of Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) in Qinghai, where a conference on drawing up plans for education in the province over the next decade had been held days before.
The protests, which took place at a time of already intense political repression, were evidence of the alarm among both students and teachers at the impact of proposed changes to policy on the Tibetan language, bedrock of the Tibetan identity and culture.
The petition by retired Chinese government officials is notable for its command of the legal implications of the proposed reforms, citing numerous articles from several key pieces of Chinese legislation which ostensibly protect the rights of Tibetans and other non-Chinese people in the PRC to study, use and develop their own language. Enacting the proposal, the petitioners argue, would be “in serious contempt of the authority of the nation’s laws.”
The petition explains: “Unless the National People’s Congress revises the Autonomy Law, an administrative office such as a provincial-level government office, has absolutely no authority to exceed the principles and provisions of a basic law by issuing regulations without authority and in contravention of the law.”
The legal arguments made in the petition are aimed squarely at pronouncements made by the head of the Qinghai Education Department, Wang Yubo, characterizing his claim that the proposed reforms confirm to national laws as “irrational.”
In tackling Wang Yubo’s statements on the proposed reforms, apparently made during or immediately after they were announced in mid-October, the petitioners also accuse him of “sophistry”: claiming the reforms conformed to China’s national laws, Wang Yubo cited an article from the Language Law, that provides “[Chinese] and the standardized Chinese characters shall be used as the basic language in education and teaching in schools and other institutions of education.” But he failed to conclude the article, which continues “except where otherwise provided for by law,” and where there are numerous instances elsewhere in Chinese law that “otherwise provide” for the use of nationality languages as the basis of education.
The petition was submitted under the provisions of the Regional Nationality Law on Autonomy (RNLA), which aside from the Constitution is Beijing’s main piece of legislation for administering Tibetan and other “minority nationality” regions of the People’s Republic of China, and under the terms of which the central authorities are beholden to reply to the petition within 60 days of its receipt. If the petition was submitted on the day it is dated, October 24, 2010, the deadline for a response is estimated to be on or around January 14, 2011.
The names of the individuals who wrote the petition are not included on the version seen by ICT, the Chinese version of which is currently circulating on the Internet. Several hundred teachers had also submitted a petition in October, translated into English by ICT, expressing their concerns about the impact of the reforms on Tibetan students’ overall learning, and referring to detailed studies that directly refuted the claimed benefits of the proposed reforms. (ICT report, Tibetan teachers write petition in support of Tibetan language; fears for students after detentions – October 26, 2010)
The retired government officials and educationalists make three precise recommendations in the petition, urging the government to “consolidate a step further excellent relations between the nationalities” by following Article 49 of the Regional Nationality Law on Autonomy, which states: “Autonomous agencies of an ethnic autonomous area persuade and encourage cadres of the various nationalities to learn each other’s spoken and written languages. Cadres of Han nationality will learn the spoken and written languages of the local minority nationalities. While learning and using the spoken and written languages of their own nationalities, cadres of minority nationalities should also learn the spoken and written Chinese language commonly used throughout the country.”
The retired cadres observe that protecting the use and development of the Tibetan language is not simply a domestic issue, saying that: “Currently, there is as much concern for linguistic and cultural diversity in the world as there is for biodiversity – it has become a global concern.” Undoubtedly aware of the potential for serious political fallout from their actions, the petitioners urge the authorities to regard their stance not as one “that has to be overcome,” but instead to deal with the issue as “an important political duty, an important people’s-hearts project, and with great efforts and great determination, focus closely on achieving good results.” They recommend the following: “By means of relevant civil organizations taking the lead – other than education and nationality work departments – carry out in-depth surveys, research, discussions and experience exchanges on the issue of bilingual education, on upholding social stability and the unity of nationalities, and avoid allowing the Tibetan language and script to become a factor that impacts upon nationality relations and state security.”
A full translation by ICT into English of the text of the petition (written in Chinese), including three detailed recommendations on a way forward, follows below.
Retired Tibetan cadres and old education workers’ “submission”
Writers: Retired Tibetan cadres and old education workers
The China in Perspective editors: Last month (in the middle of October), middle and elementary school students in Tibetan areas used such means as demonstrating in the streets and gathering on campuses to express their discontent with the central government’s policies (education policies) on Tibet. At the end of October, a number of retired Tibetan cadres and old education workers in Xining Municipality in Qinghai Province presented a submission to the Qinghai Province Education Department in which they discussed aspects of the current education issue in depth and from a legal point of view, and gave copies of the submission to such institutions as the Central Committee United Front Work Department. The submission is rich in content and fresh ideas, and the full text is presented here for the benefit of our readers.
Suggestions on the Issue of Mid to Long Term Bilingual Reforms in Qinghai (full text)
Qinghai Province Department of Education:
Since liberation, and in particular since reform and opening up, development in Qinghai’s nationality education has been swift and rapid with the bilingual education system improving continuously and showing outstanding results, broadening Qinghai’s international influence; several Tibetan autonomous areas have prudently, scientifically, soundly and seriously promoted bilingual education at the basic education stage, the scope of education popularization has grown greatly, and non-illiteracy in young adults has reached 96%.
尤其黄南、海南两州，通过全面推行藏、汉语并行，多数学科以藏语文为教学语言，使得本地人才存量、高层人才数量走在全省的前列，双语、多语人才不仅 成为青海藏区跨越式发展和长治久安的中坚力量，而且可以说已经遍布全球，成为藏区双语教育效果最好的地区，也是在教育和语言领域群众意见最少的地区（相比 之下，海东和西宁所属藏族乡村、海北、玉树等地意见较多）。作为六州和省直机关的行政干部和教育工作者，我们看到在双语教育的引领下，学校教育从零起步， 迈出了可喜的一步。
Following comprehensive promotion of the dual-use of Tibetan and Chinese and the use of Tibetan as the medium of instruction for most subjects in the two prefectures of Huangnan [Tib: Malho] and Hainan [Tib: Tsolho] in particular, local human resources and high-level talent are the forefront in the province. Bilingual and multilingual talent has not only become a backbone for leap-over style development and long-term peace and stability in these Tibetan areas of Qinghai, but throughout the world it could also be said that they have become the regions with the best Tibetan area bilingual results. In addition, Huangnan [Tib: Malho] and Hainan [Tib: Tsolho] have the least amount of suggestions [petitions of complaint] from the masses in the areas of education and language (compared to Tibetan townships and villages in Haidong [Tib: Tsoshar] and Xining, and in Haibei [Tib: Tsochang] and Yushu [Tib: Jyekundo] where there are more suggestions). As administrative cadres and education workers from the six [Tibetan autonomous] prefectural and provincial-level offices, we have seen that under the guidance of bilingual education, education in schools has gone from nothing to a very satisfying level.
Recently, your honorable department organized and convened a provincial education conference, and issued the “Qinghai Province Education Reform and Development Mid- to Long-Term Outline Plan (2010 2020),” (referred to below as the “Qinghai Outline”) and decided to raise 7.6 billion yuan and take three years to develop education, with a particular determination to make breakthroughs in bilingual education including broadening bilingual training of teachers, improving teaching conditions in Tibetan areas and raising the levels of teaching in Tibetan areas, all of which we encourage.
然而，由于《青海纲要》涉及藏汉语言的主次区分、教学用语的统一改革等一些重大问题，加之教育行政部门和个别地方急于坚决、迅速、强力推行，引起了 一些地区学生和家长的不满，导致10月19日以来黄南、海南、果洛、海北等四个藏族自治州中小学采取上街游行、校内集会等多种形式抗议，并正在中小学以外 和其他地区继续扩大和蔓延，在国际国内造成了非常恶劣的影响。
However, because the “Qinghai Outline” touches upon some major issues such as the distinction between Chinese and Tibetan as primary and secondary languages and reforms to unify the language of instruction, added to which education administrative offices and individual localities are too eager to be resolute, rapid and forceful in their implementation of the reforms, discontent has arisen among students and parents in some areas leading to elementary and middle school students in the four Tibetan autonomous prefectures of Huangnan [Tib: Malho], Hainan [Tib: Tsolho], Guoluo [Tib: Golok] and Haibei [Tsochang] where such measures as demonstrating in the streets and gathering on campuses were taken from October 19 onwards, and which now continue to expand and spread beyond elementary and middle schools to other areas, which is having an extremely adverse influence at home and abroad.
As government builders and witnesses to, participants in and promoters of the history of development and reform in Qinghai’s Tibetan areas, we cannot but pay close attention, reflect calmly, ponder deeply and respond positively to this important issue. Upholding stability in Tibetan areas, developing equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmonious relations between the nationalities is our incumbent duty.
The full text of Department Head Wang Yubo’s questions and answers in the Chinese- and Tibetan-language radio and television broadcasts and newspapers allowed us to further understand and appreciate the concerns and demands expressed by the students.
With regard to the provincial education department proposing in the “Qinghai Outline” that Chinese should be the main language and the Tibetan language should be supplemental [Ch: hanyu wei zhu, zangyu wei fu] with Chinese as the medium of instruction as well as providing Chinese in pre-school – and urgently implementing the reforms regardless of the reasonable concerns of interest groups including students and parents – Wang Yubo raised the “three conforms,” referring to conforming to the spirit of the central government, conforming to national laws, and conforming to the interests and wishes of the masses. But from the reality of central government documents, current laws and policies and language practices in Tibetan areas – in particular in the nomadic and farming areas – and particularly in the views of those of us who have many years experience of work and understanding in minority nationality areas, this is irrational. We consider that:
First: There is in reality no basis for “conforming to the spirit of the central government”; substantively, this actually runs counter to central government requirements. The “National Mid- to Long-Term Education Reform and Development Outline Plan (2010-2020)” went through several rounds of public consultation and it can be said to distill the people’s will, follow the people’s will and to be rational and legitimate. The section “Chapter Nine: Nationality Education” on “forcefully promoting bilingual education” emphasizes: “Comprehensively offer Chinese language courses, comprehensively popularize the nation’s common language and script. Respect and protect the right of minority nationalities to use and to receive education in their own language.” Evidently, this is regulated on the basis of the daily reality of Chinese being the second language in minority nationality areas (particularly Tibetan areas). With large Chinese populations, broad use of the Chinese language and the ever increasing influence of strategies to globalize Chinese, Tibetan cadres and masses are keen to voluntarily study Chinese, just as they are keen to study English; comprehensively offering Chinese language courses has never been questioned, and even less has it been resisted, and we believe that all areas would accept and popularize the content of such a provision. The phrase “To use and to receive education in their own language” that immediately follows – which is defined under law as a right that requires respect and protection – is obviously referring to the time-tabling of provisions in elementary and middle schools of such non-language courses as mathematics, physics, chemistry, politics, geography, ethics and information technology. But proposing that “by 2015, elementary schools shall realize bilingual education based on the national common language supplemented with the nationality’s own language” actually bypasses the education provision to provide Chinese language courses in the syllabus, while in the syllabus itself there is no “requirement” to make Chinese the medium of instruction. The government has a responsibility to respect and protect nationality languages as a medium of instruction or as a supplementary medium of instruction. Yet by altering concepts and tampering with the proposals in the “National Outline” on the “right to receive education in the nationality language,” Wang Yubo emphasizes setting a target of “maintaining primacy for the national common language and script in teaching, at the same time as studying well the nationality’s language and script and making the national common language the medium of instruction.”
Second: The so-called “conforms to national laws” in actual fact is out of context, and seriously violates the Constitution and laws. The provincial education department’s and Wang Yubo’s disregard for the multi-nationality state, for the multi-nationality province and for provincial conditions in the realm of education by publicly limiting minority nationalities’ freedom to study language in schools and their right to use and develop their language, is in complete contravention of the Constitution, the People’s Republic of China Law on Regional National Autonomy (simplified below as the “Autonomy Law”), the Education Law, and the PRC Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language [Ch: Guojia tongyong yuyan wenzi fa] (simplified below as the Language Law). Yet Wang Yubo selected from these laws certain parts and clauses out of context to explain or justify what he was saying in his public statements, which is a “misreading,” an “insult” and a “trampling” upon those national laws, manifested in his random citations, random interpretations and random fabrications. First, limiting the use of nationality languages in the realm of teaching and education is not supported by the several laws Wang Yubo discussed. Article 4 Clause 4 of the Constitution provides: “The people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages”; Article 8 of the Language Law repeats the provision word for word: “The people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages” (which is then followed by the line: “The spoken and written languages of the nationalities shall be used in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Law on Regional National Autonomy and other laws”); and Article 10 of the Autonomy Law provides: “Autonomous agencies in national autonomous areas guarantee the freedom of the nationalities in these areas to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.” Secondly, there is no concrete legal basis to support saying the language of instruction in schools must be a symbol of the unification of the nation and [therefore] unified in the Chinese language. Article 37 Clause 3 of the Autonomy Law provides: “Schools (classes) and other educational organizations recruiting mostly nationality students should, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use these languages as the media of instruction.” There is no need to explain a provision as clear as that. And Article 12 of the Education Law provides “Schools and other educational organizations with mainly minority nationality students may use that nationality’s language or the local nationality’s language for education.”
Could it be that Wang Yubo as head of the Education Department has never seen these two laws? Have those two legal clauses in the Language Law been revised? Not as far as we know. Article 10 of that law provides “Putonghua and the standardized Chinese characters shall be used as the basic language in education and teaching in schools and other institutions of education, except where otherwise provided for by law.” Wang Yubo deliberately only cited the first part of that article and avoided the second with its “otherwise provided” provisions in the Autonomy Law and the Education Law, which are the exceptions in the Language Law. This was obviously taking things out of context for personal purposes and should be thoroughly reviewed and completely rectified. Furthermore, since it is recognized that the People’s Republic of China is still implementing the system of regional national autonomy, an administrative office that on its own volition changes school establishment and languages of instruction in autonomous areas is deliberately challenging and trampling upon the nation’s basic laws and is in serious contempt of the authority of the nation’s laws. Unless the National People’s Congress revises the Autonomy Law, an administrative office such as a provincial-level government office, has absolutely no authority to exceed the principles and provisions of a basic law by issuing regulations without authority in contravention of the law. The Autonomy Law is a basic law for implementing the system of regional national autonomy within our country’s current Constitution, Article 36 of which clearly states “In accordance with state guidelines on education and in accordance with the law, autonomous agencies in ethnic autonomous areas decide on educational plans in these areas, on the establishment of various kinds of schools at different levels, and on their educational system, forms, curricula, the language used in instruction and enrollment procedures.”
Such school matters in the “Qinghai Outline” as “language of instruction,” “ethnic-Han joint schools,” syllabus and language teaching are clearly legislated in law as being under the educational authority of the agencies of autonomy in national autonomous areas. Under such circumstances as where the agencies of autonomy in the six autonomous prefectures had not made any provision, the provincial-level education administrative offices made provisions such as these without any authority; and then as one of its functions it announced them publicly and explained them with sophistry. As such, the state and Party’s current laws and nationality policies were seriously violated, nationality theory was contravened, the authority, seriousness and continuity of policies was damaged, and the prestige and credibility of the Party and state’s nationality laws and policies were seriously harmed. There is also the point that extending Chinese language teaching provision to the pre-school stage comprehensively strengthens pre-school bilingual education, and it is a progression with the times that transforms nationality descendants in the “era of innovation” and is an “important breakthrough.” The “National Outline” and the “Qinghai Outline” both clarify the idea and plan for popularizing pre-school Chinese and Tibetan bilingual education. We have seen that Article 37 Clause 3 of the Autonomy Law provides that “[In] Schools (classes) and other educational organizations recruiting mostly ethnic minority students” [and] “[b]eginning in the lower or senior grades of primary school, Han language and literature courses should be taught to popularize the common language used throughout the country and the use of Han Chinese characters.” Limiting the study time of the Chinese language to the lower or senior grades of primary school conforms to the reality of the language environment in minority nationality areas, conforms to the requirements of promoting the national common language, and conforms to objective principles of minority nationality children using the nationality language as their mother tongue for thinking and cognitive development; it rests on the foundations of a multi-nationality and multi-lingual state, and is geared for the future of a unified nation. In the wake of the Tibet 3.14 and Xinjiang 7.5 incidents, one cannot escape the conclusion that it is the desire of such majority [emphasis added] nationality individuals as Wang Yubo and other luminaries to expand the “civilizing” function and scope of the Chinese language.
Third, making the common language and script the only official language of the People’s Republic of China is ignorant and pedantic, and it ignores the basic feature that China is a multi-nationality country in which the basic system of regional national autonomy exists. With regard to choosing Chinese as the sole language of instruction, Wang Yubo’s proposals are based on Chinese Putonghua and standardized characters being the sole national language. Such a statement simply cannot stand. It not only blurs the lines between an official language and the state’s common language, it also contravenes the state language policies of the People’s Republic of China. In actual fact, while the Language Law applies to the various dialects of Chinese and choices between the traditional and standardized characters for Putonghua, the Language Law does not elaborate a relationship to minority nationality languages. (Article 8 only provides: “All the nationalities shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.”) Article 21 of the Autonomy Law provides: “While performing its functions, the autonomous agencies of an ethnic autonomous area, in accordance with the regulations on the exercise of autonomy of the area, use the language or languages commonly used in the locality; where several commonly used languages are used for the performance of such functions, the language of the nationality exercising regional autonomy may be used as the main language.”
Confusing the common language and script as the official language is extremely inappropriate in education administrative offices, and particularly in such a multi-nationality area like Qinghai. An official language is the language used for communicating by the citizens of a state and by the state’s agencies of government. Some countries have one, some countries have several (such as India), and in a multi-nationality unified country such as China there is a unifying language and script, but it is not the only official language. The Autonomy Law clearly provides that minority nationality languages in all autonomous areas are the local official languages or languages of choice for government agencies. In China therefore, aside from national autonomous areas, there is only one official language, whereas in national autonomous areas the local nationality’s language and script is contemporaneous with the state’s common language and script. Throughout the world, aside from nationality countries and countries of immigrants, there is not necessarily just one official language in multi-nationality countries, and their languages of instruction are similarly varied.
Fourth: Since the success of bilingual education is acknowledged, there is no reason to make the Tibetan language and script the scapegoat of reforms, and no reason to blame difficult issues in bilingual education on the Tibetan language and script. Wang Yubo said, “Bilingual education has made great progress, basically establishing a bilingual system from basic education to high-school education, training a large batch of socialist constructors and successors fluent in Chinese and ethnic languages, and they are playing an important role on all frontlines across the entire province.” Their “important role cannot be replaced,” and they are said to be just, to seek truth from facts, and to comport with reality. Many of us retired cadres have personally experienced this process, and some have dedicated our entire lives to this undertaking. But if education departments are aware of these successes, why abolish bilingual education, differentiate between main and supplementary languages, and uniformly use Chinese in education, and why completely negate the enormous successes in nationality education, over several decades of gradual exploration in bilingual education, repeated practice, difficult progress and fostering growth? We simply don’t understand! Blaming the many existing problems in bilingual on education on reasons of Tibetan being a language of instruction is one-sided, simplistic, and has no scientific basis. In two senior high schools in Longwu [Tib: Rongwu] Town in Huangnan [Tib: Malho] Prefecture – where the first protest activities occurred on October 19 – Tibetan is used as the language of instruction for all classes, except English and Chinese. Classes at the Tongren [Tib: Rebkong] County Nationality Middle School in the same prefecture are also taught in the Tibetan language while at Huangnan [Tib: Malho] Prefecture Nationality Middle School, classes are selectively taught in Tibetan or Chinese as the language of instruction. Teaching practice has shown that the county school is better than the prefecture school, and that the prefecture’s middle school classes taught in the Tibetan language are better than those taught in the Chinese language – so how is this explained? And furthermore, both Huangnan [Tib: Malho] and Hainan [Tib: Tsolho] prefectures have for a long time been developing Tibetan language instruction for the majority of classes, while Haibei [Tib: Tsochang], Haixi [Tib: Tsonub] and Yushu [Tib: Jyekundo] prefectures have merely offered Tibetan (as an elective), yet the coverage and quality of bilingual education in the former is far better than the latter, and so how too is this explained? Problems with reforming the language of instruction – which is such a major issue – arose first at the No. 1 Huangnan Prefecture Middle School, and this apparently was the basis for further learning the basis for further learning. When good achievements and good experiences are ignored for drastic reform, it is completely understandable that teachers, students and parents find it difficult to accept. When considering issues of nationality languages and bilingual education since liberation on the basis of positives and negatives and experience, it is thought that the choice of language in education is “decided according to the wishes of the majority of the masses and the local language environment,” (“Suggestions on Several Issues for Strengthening Nationality Education Work,” issued in 1992 by the State Education Commission and State Ethnic Affairs Commission) and cannot be changed by the will of an individual leader of a provincial-level administrative office. Based on the understandings and considerations above, we propose:
1. Immediately stop implementation of all illegal provisions for making Chinese the sole language of instruction. Article 20 of the Autonomy Law stipulates “If a resolution, decision, order, or instruction of a state agency at a higher level does not suit the actual conditions in an ethnic autonomous area, an autonomous agency of the area may report for the approval of that higher level state agency to either implement it with certain alterations or cease implementing it altogether. That higher level state agency must give its decision within 60 days of receiving the report.”
In the current situation and under current circumstances and without agreement from a higher government agency, an executive government office nevertheless has made this unconstitutional and illegal decision on reforms. We appeal: before the Qinghai Proposal is passed, we call upon the National People’s Congress, the provincial National People’s Congress, and the National People’s Congresses in the six prefectures to stop its implementation in the six prefectures and areas with various nationalities. We earnestly hope that the provincial education department will not compound its errors and exacerbate the measure’s impact, and instead issue a public statement as soon as possible to immediately correct and immediately stop these actions that ignore the educational requirements and developmental interests of the masses in Tibetan areas, that trample wantonly upon the nation’s Constitution, laws, regulations and basic policies, and which harm the image of the country, and damage the unity of the nationalities and social stability;
2. Based on reality and respecting science and abiding by the law, promote Tibetan and Chinese language classes simultaneously, as well as the application of Tibetan in teaching other languages. Earnestly and thoroughly research the successes achieved and other developmental experiences in bilingual education in Qinghai. Extensively listen to suggestions and proposals from expert scholars of all nationalities, education workers from all circles and from all areas, and teachers, students and their parents, and on the basis of existing work and successes, strengthen and improve bilingual education. At the same time as relentlessly raising the levels of Chinese as a second language and its application abilities, effectively train “bilingual teachers” for all subjects who are fluent in Tibetan and Chinese, and maintain “respecting and protecting” the right to use nationality languages and scripts when receiving an education in all disciplines, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, music, physical education and fine arts, and comprehensively raise the level of education in Tibetan areas. For “those students whose levels of Chinese are not high (the second of the five prominent issues)” and who must “raise their Chinese abilities,” this must be realized by means of Chinese-language classes, and not realized through such non-language class means as in the laboratory, by doing arithmetic or drawing or by participating in physical education. The task in a language class is to raise Chinese language abilities; the task in teaching classes is to allow students using the language with which they are most familiar and in which they are most practiced, to most effectively and conveniently receive an education. In the newly-founded Qinghai Province all of the so-called “bilingual” teachers at the full-time Tibetan middle schools taught in the Tibetan language, while all of the several dozen other “bilingual” teachers employed to teach other subjects understood only Chinese, and were completely unable to do any supplementary teaching in Tibetan. We must face the reality that students have expressed that they don’t understand the language the subjects are taught in. (And is it not that if there’s a requirement for Tibetan teachers to be bilingual but no requirement for Han teachers to be bilingual, then a teacher able to speak one language is likely to be hired over the bilingual teacher? What kind of standard practice is that?) With regard to raising the levels of Chinese, we must see that there are two issues, and with scientific knowledge, scientific treatment and with a scientific solution, language levels must be resolved through language classes, and we cannot sacrifice the comprehensive, flexible and direct teaching of other disciplines and knowledge for the sake of raising language levels. Emphasizing bilingual education requires strengthening both Chinese and Tibetan classes, but even more so it requires that the nationality’s own language be used as the language of instruction for all disciplines in the classroom;
3. By means of setting aside a quota of “nationality students examined in the nationality language” [min kao min], broaden the avenues to advanced studies and employment for bilingual students, strengthening their adaptability to the Chinese-language world. With regard to bilingual education’s “narrow avenues to advanced studies, employment opportunities that are not wide, and weak personal flexibility” (three of the five prominent difficulties and issues), responsibility is not with the students, but lies instead with the government’s student recruitment policies and strategies. Solving bilingual students’ difficulties with advanced studies and the issue of employment difficulties, effectively requires study of the good, successful, and broadly well-received methods and experiences in nationality areas such as Inner Mongolia, Yanbian [Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province], Xinjiang and Tibet. These include the development and publication of nationality language teaching materials, construction of a bilingual education system from elementary school to high school, research into the nature of bilingual education, and Chinese classes that center on language ability, which with good will and sincerity, break the limitations of narrow avenues to advanced studies. In accordance with the situation regionally in Qinghai, and in accordance with the numbers of Chinese-Tibetan and Chinese-Mongolian “nationality students examined in the nationality language” and in the high-school admissions process, set aside an appropriate proportion of places, allowing bilingual students to enter major institutions across the country for specialized subjects, allowing them to stride through the door to the country and to the rest of the world.
4. Honor commitments to strengthen nationality language and script education, and dispel people’s concerns and worries about bilingual reforms. Wang Yubo proposed “continue strengthening and advancing minority language education, broaden investment, improve conditions and raise the quality of teaching.” Such empty formulations are all too common, and ears are deaf to them now. In our experience, the two models practiced in Qinghai in the 1980s in a “twin-track system” for bilingual education were focused on two regions, namely the nationality schools in areas of Xining and Haidong home to various nationalities where bilingual education is practiced with Chinese as the language of instruction and the nationality language is a secondary provision; and the six autonomous prefectures where bilingual education is practiced with Tibetan as the language of instruction and Chinese is a secondary provision. After 30 years, in the areas of Xining and Haidong [Tib: Tsoshar] with various nationalities, and aside from Xunhua [Do-wi Salar Autonomous County in Haidong [Tib: Tsoshar] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture] (in the past few years Hualong [Bayan Khar Hui Autonomous County] has started to improve), bilingual education in all other areas exists only in name; almost no nationality language teachers have been allocated, making such bilingual education as Tibetan-Chinese, Tu-Chinese and Salar-Chinese a complete illusion. “Secondary provision” nationality language bilingual education seems to have become the first stage of – and a pretext for – promoting Chinese as the sole language of instruction. We are not willing for such a history to be seen across the entire province, and instead it needs to be corrected and improved. With the provincial-level education offices’ determination to promote Chinese to such a great degree as this, a blind eye is being turned to nationality language education in these areas (including some towns and nomadic and pastoral areas of Haibei [Tib: Tsochang] and Haixi [Tib: Tsonub]), and what does this prove about “language equality”? We call upon and request the provincial Education Department to honor its commitments and within 60 days of receipt of this submission, provide solutions to the issues of nationality language course provision and teaching resources allocation in rural areas of Xining and Haidong [Tib: Tsoshar], and provide clear answers that effectively prove “one language is not being used to overcome another language” in exchange for the trust of Tibetans and others at home and abroad.
We strongly urge:
1. Reflect upon both the positive and negative lessons learned since the Cultural Revolution, and by means of mutual respect between Han and minority nationalities, and the study and use of language, consolidate a step further excellent relations between the nationalities. Article 49 of the Autonomy Law provides: “Autonomous agencies of an ethnic autonomous area persuade and encourage cadres of the various nationalities to learn each other’s spoken and written languages. Cadres of Han nationality will learn the spoken and written languages of the local minority nationalities. While learning and using the spoken and written languages of their own nationalities, cadres of minority nationalities should also learn the spoken and written Chinese language commonly used throughout the country.”
When we retired cadres were young, the Han cadres who came to Tibet were basically proficient in the Tibetan language. It was completely forbidden to study or to use minority nationality languages during the Cultural Revolution, but this was immediately corrected following the Third Plenary Session [of the 11th National Party Congress in late 1978, when Deng Xiaoping’s post-Mao program of reforms was adopted]. Today, the world has changed and it is normal for minority nationalities to study the Chinese language, but almost no Han cadres have grasped nationality languages or scripts – there are even nationality cadres who don’t study their own nationality’s language; fewer and fewer agencies of autonomy use nationality languages and scripts, nationality languages are becoming ever weaker, and nationality personnel resources are becoming ever more marginalized. Such a trend will have a serious impact upon nationality relations in Tibetan autonomous areas. It is hoped that the provincial Party Committee and the provincial government will pay a high degree of attention, and that each autonomous area will seriously address the situation, respond positively, and reverse such similar situations as soon as possible.
2) Protecting and developing the Tibetan language and script is a necessity for the harmonious co-existence of cultures and continuation of human civilization – please give respect to and pay attention to this. The Tibetan language and script has a long history and rich content that harbors a deep historical culture and spiritual civilization. It plays an irreplaceable role in the preservation and dissemination of Tibetan and even Indian civilization, as well as the civilization of the [Chinese] Central Plains and for the continuation of other languages, and it is an important part of increasing the soft power of the Chinese nation. At the same time, the Tibetan language is a powerful transnational boundary language, a language with a common international encoding, and aside from Tibetan areas it also touches upon some surrounding countries and regions. The issue of the use and development of the Tibetan language is not simply a domestic issue. Currently, there is as much concern for linguistic and cultural diversity in the world as there is for biodiversity – it has become a global concern. At the same time, even though two years have passed, the shadows of 3.14 and 7.5 still hang heavy over the Tibetan people, and people are full of worries and concerns, wondering whether the Central Committee and the State’s policies on Tibet will change, and whether the treatment of Tibetan cadres, masses and students and the treatment of Tibetan culture, language and religion will change. In times such as these, at a moment such as this and against this background, breaking off the continuity of laws and policies, implementing large-scale so-called reforms and implementing limitations on the use of Tibetan in “the teaching language of instruction and materials,” people are easily terrified and teachers, students and their parents are easily led to chaos, which is not beneficial to stability, harmony or unity. It is hoped that education offices will not regard us as people to be overcome, or as having “incorrect thinking that impacts upon social stability” or of being hesitant and indecisive, and instead give adequate consideration and attention, and effectively regard this as “an important political duty, an important people’s-hearts project, and with great efforts and great determination, focus closely on achieving good results.”
3. By means of relevant civil organizations [Ch: minjian tuanti] taking the lead – other than education and nationality work departments – carry out in-depth surveys, research, discussions and experience exchanges on the issue of bilingual education, on upholding social stability and the unity of nationalities, and avoid allowing the Tibetan language and script to become a factor that impacts upon nationality relations and state security. With the Tibetan Studies Association of Qinghai Province as the largest civil organization in the province, organize as soon as possible Tibetan, Han and other nationality specialist scholars, education workers, and social workers to comprehensively study and correctly understand Qinghai Province Education Department’s laws and legal explanations, and to the greatest extent possible arrange for experts with strengths and retired cadres with a rich experience of education in Tibetan areas to conduct further research and analysis into Chinese-Tibetan bilingual education. Actively convene Chinese-Tibetan bilingual education seminars at certain levels, extensively call for reports and papers on strengthening, improving and developing bilingual education (including on international bilingual experiences, and domestically on all aspects of bilingualism in Yanbian, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet and in Guizhou and Yunnan), presenting positive, good and honest opinions and proposals, and preventing Tibetan cadres, masses and teachers and students using “extreme behavior” to express their reasonable demands, and preventing the situation from spreading and creating adverse effects. It is hoped that compatriots of all nationalities will take a long-term perspective, make long-term plans, exercise maximum restraint, composure and calm, and not create rumors, believe rumors or spread rumors, and make great efforts towards scientifically, reliably, beneficially and effectively promoting bilingual education and upholding social harmony and stability.
Some retired Tibetan cadres and senior education workers from the Xining region
October 24, 2010
Copied to: The Central Committee United Front Work Department, National People’s Congress Religious Affairs Committee, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, The Ministry of Education, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Nationalities Affairs Committee, Each Member of the Provincial Standing Committee, the Provincial National People’s Congress, the Provincial Government, the Provincial Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference leadership and its constituent offices, the Provincial United Front Work Department, the Party Committees in the six prefectures, their National People’s Congresses, Governments, Chinese Political People’s Consultative Conferences, and the Education Bureaus in the six prefectures.