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Feature - We are all mountain people

China's occupation of Tibet and suppression of Tibetan culture continues, with the outside world paying little attention


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"When we did not do our homework properly we were kicked and beaten with chairs," said one student. "Most of the times the teachers hit us on the stomach or the back, but sometimes be hit us also on the head. This was the most dangerous because often the wounds had to be stitched. Some students fainted and some had to vomit after these beatings."

Discrimination against Tibetan students in Tibet is made possible by two factors: that public education is controlled by the Chinese and that Tibetans are now a minority in their country.

"After 4:30 p.m. there were no more classes and we had to sit idle in the classroom," said another student. "Three or four times a week we were asked during this time whether our parents talked about Tibetan politics or the Dalai Lama. When the children admitted their parents spoke about these things, they were rewarded with presents, money or food. The parents were later called to meetings and sometimes then fined and put into prison."

On Nov. 20, 1989, the international community adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This Convention was the first legal document to state guarantees for the human rights of children and today it is the primary source of protection for the rights of children.

The People's Republic of China signed the agreement on Aug. 29, 1990.

Tibetans are rarely allowed access to post secondary education. Entrance examinations must be written in Chinese, and for Tibetans Chinese is a foreign language. Even if a Tibetan student has a command of the Chinese language and passes the entrance examination, it doesn't mean that he or she will be accepted into the school.

"Problems arose as I wanted to go to college," said a student. "The Chinese authorities did not allow me to participate in the entrance exam in Lhasa. They told me that I could not do my entrance exam because my parents were nomads and they did not have a ration card."

Tenpa, one of my former students from Kodaikanal International School, wishes to complete his education in the West and return to Tibet. There are few Tibetan academics in Tibet and he wishes to help his people when he returns home. It's a noble statement.

There are many organizations and individuals who have supported Tibet over the years: The Government of India, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations around the world, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, film directors Martin Scorsese and Bernado Bertolucci, actors Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Goldie Hawn and Pierce Brosnan, to name just a few.