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China urges Tibetan students to denounce Dalai Lama

China is urging teachers and students in western Tibet to pledge allegiance to the one-party state and denounce the Dalai Lama and what authorities say are his separatist ways, according to two Tibetans living inside Tibet.

Officials summoned more than 400 teachers and students from elementary and middle schools in Ngari prefecture of the western Tibet Autonomous Region of China to attend a workshop on “anti-separatism” in October, the sources said.

At the workshop, attendees were told “to confer their allegiance toward the state ideology and condemn separatism and His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” one Tibetan told RFA in a written message.

“The attendees were also told to refrain from any religious activities in schools,” he wrote.

The Chinese government believes that the Dalia Lama wants to split off the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas of western China from the rest of the country. 

However, the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism has not advocated for independence but rather a “Middle Way” that accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China and urges greater cultural and religious freedoms, including strengthened language rights, guaranteed for ethnic minorities under the provisions of China’s own constitution.

Suppressing culture

A second Tibetan from Tibet confirmed that during the workshop, Tibetan teachers and students were told to pledge their loyalty and patriotism to the Chinese government and refrain from teaching and imparting any education related to religion.

“The teachers must ensure they teach students to adhere to conferring their allegiance to the state ideology,” he told RFA in a written message. 

The measure comes as the Chinese government intensifies its efforts to suppress Tibetan culture, language and religion and to forcibly assimilate the Tibetan identity into the dominant Han-Chinese majority while ensuring patriotism and loyalty to the state.

In October, RFA reported on a government ban on ethnic minority language-teaching among Tibetan communities in Sichuan province.

The schools that were summoned to participate in the workshop included Ngari Garzong Middle School, Kung-Phen-Sen Elementary School, Ngari Vocational Middle School, Ngari Model School and Ngari Childcare Center, the sources said.

The measure is part of the Chinese government’s attempts to force people to denounce the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration – the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharamsala, India – although the efforts have not been successful, said Dawa Tsering, director of Tibet Policy Institute, the CTA’s official think tank.

“Recently we had seen a slight ease from the Chinese government in denouncing the Dalai Lama in state media,” he said. “But then the Chinese government once again started imposing harsher policies when [it] realized that no matter the effort and repressive policies, it would be impossible to eradicate Tibetan’s faith and reverence for the Dalai Lama.” 

Translated by RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.