A student protest in the streets of Chabcha. Photo published on Tibet Justice’s Facebook page.
Over a thousand Tibetan students protested on Monday in the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China. The police quickly suppressed the protest, which resulted in several severe injuries. The trigger for this protest was an educational questionnaire perceived as disparaging to Tibetan culture.
The Chinese authorities distributed the questionnaires to students at the Sorig Lobling medical school in the city of Chabcha (also known as Gonghe to the Chinese) in an effort to teach them about Chinese patriotism. However, the recipients perceived the questions as implicitly insulting to the Tibetan language as well as critical of suicides by immolation.
According to the International Campaign for Tibet, a non-profit organisation, the number of Tibetans who have immolated themselves by fire since 2009 now reaches 84.
The questionnaire distributed to students.
According to several international Tibetan organisations, about 20 protesters were injured in the police raid on the protesters, including four of them severely.
Numerous Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of lacking respect for their culture and religion and call for the independence of this eastern Chinese province as well as the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Tibet, as well as Tibetan zones in neighbouring provinces, are completely off-limit to journalists.

“The questionnaire featured trick questions such as ‘which leader would better be able to achieve equality among the people?’”

Kanyag Tsering is a Tibetan monk living in exile in Dharamsala, India. He has been in contact with people who witnessed the incident in Chabcha.
The training that the authorities had been trying to implement included a 10-point questionnaire as well as “patriotic education” sessions. During these sessions, the students had already been angered by derogatory and baseless accusations made against the Dalai Lama.
However, the questionnaires are what really infuriated the students. They were faced with questions such as, “How would you explain the immolations?” and “what are the consequences of protests and illegal gatherings?” Or even: “Does bilingual education signal the disappearance of minority languages?” [Although there is an official policy of bilingualism in the Tibetan zones, the Chinese authorities have for a long time been pushing for the use of Mandarin and many Tibetans claim that their language is being marginalized.]. The trick questions included, “Which leader would better be able to achieve equality among the people?”
Tibetan protesters marching in the streets of Chabcha. Video courtesy of Voice of America – Tibet.
The students started chanting slogans defending “equality among the people,” “freedom of language” and “respect for the truth.” After two hours, the local anti-riot police intervened. They beat people indiscriminately.
Some of my local contacts told me that the police had fired shots in an attempt to scatter the crowd, but I have been unable to verify this information because all communications with Chabcha have been blocked. What we do know is that the anti-riot police and the military were deployed around the school, and that the injured students’ parents were not able to see or contact their children in the hospital.
Injured protesters. Photos courtesy of Voice of America – Tibet.