The arrest of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk in 2016 is a testimony to the fact that the quality of education in Tibet has turned worse in recent years. This is a clear indication of China’s growing restrictions on Tibetans from preserving and promoting their own language. Based on the language rights enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which guarantees the rights to minority nationalities to preserve their languages, Tashi Wangchuk demanded the implementation of the article 4of the constitution. Instead of protecting his language rights, Tashi Wangchuk was imprisoned on the pretext of him promoting separatism.
For the first time in history since the occupation of Tibet by China, Tibetan language faces a dangerous situation. The enforcement of policy that recommends the replacement of Tibetan to Chinese as medium of instruction in institutions and schools is a systematic step towards eradicating Tibetan language, and thereby, a vast cultural heritage.
After the Cultural Revolution the Chinese government has given little freedom to teach minority language in China. In 1982 thanks to the hard work of the 10th Panchen Lama and Ngapo Ngawang Jigme law was implemented to give priority to Tibetan language in Tibet. Tibetans were able to reap the fruits of that law for decades and many youngsters were well equipped in Tibetan language after graduating.
In 2012 Chinese government sent a circular mandating that the medium of instruction in Tibetan schools would be Chinese. This received mass protests from Tibetan students and teachers alike. The worst part is Tibetans saw many self-immolations in Tibet like 20 years Tsering Kyi who set herself on fire to protest against the China’s language policy. Under the recent Chinese Government, education policy and bilingual education have made it more difficult for Tibetan students to understand the school textbooks which are all in Chinese. Interviews with Tibetan students who recently arrived from Tibet as refugees in India show that the implementation of the Chinese government’s Education policy has being so effective many of the students are not able to speak or write in Tibetan because many schools in Tibet have a very limited period for teaching Tibetan language. Some students are not even able recall their school’s names in Tibetan language. Unlike earlier policies doing the Cultural Revolution, today people in Tibet face problems of the systematic destruction of their language and culture by the Chinese government.
Today in Tibet, Tibetan parents are forced to send their children to Chinese government; run kindergartens so that they may have better enrolment in Chinese medium schools. Many Tibetans who have concerns about the preservation of Tibetan language have set up kindergartens for Tibetan children with the medium of instruction being Tibetan. But those students who attend the Tibetan; run kindergartens face difficulty when enrolling in the Chinese medium schools in Tibet. In this way, the Chinese Government indirectly forces the shutdown of the kindergartens run by Tibetans.
In reality government offices, banks, post offices and travel documents can only be accessed with Chinese language.
The then Tibet party secretary Chen Quanguo announced full employment opportunities in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in 2011 but that promise was broken in recent years. According to Adrian Zenz, “The total numbers of advertised public jobs in the region fell sharply to 5,844, just over half of the previous year’s (2016) 10,030 positions.” Students who are fluent in Chinese were given preferred jobs in TAR, leaving thousands of Tibetan students to compete in the private job market.
Minority universities are built in Tibet for preserving Tibetan language and tradition, but most of the universities have limited number of students who are studying Tibetan literature and culture. In these universities, all other subjects like law, sociology, science, and mathematics and so on are taught in Chinese.
Tibetans who arrived from Tibet in India in 1980s and 1990s have good command of Tibetan language thanks to the 10th Panchen Lama, Ngapo Ngawang Jigme and other scholars who paid a heavy price to preserve Tibetan language. The early 2000’s and recent years saw Tibetans coming from Tibet lacked that command and the worst part is some of the students are not able to speak or write Tibetan.
If this policy continues for another 10 to 20 years, apart from skin tone, Tibetan will one day be racially Tibetan and culturally Chinese. “Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some cultural genocide is taking place in Tibet,” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
 Article 4 Constitution of People’s Republic of China All nationalities in the People’s Republic of China are equal. The State protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China’s nationalities… All nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs. Accessed on 7/3/18 ( http://english.gov.cn/archive/laws_regulations/2014/08/23/content_281474982987458.htm)
 Adrian Zenz, “Full Employment” in Tibet: the beginning and End of Chen Quanguo’s Neo-Socialist Experiment publication: China Brief Volume: 18 issue: 3
*Karma Tenzin is a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.