As I mentioned in the last post, I’m currently studying in a language program at 中央民族大学 （Zhongyang Minzu Daxue, or the Central Nationalities University). It’s the flagship university for China’s minority nationalities and ethnicities – the school has degree programs that specialize in ethnic studies, and non-Han students comprise 60% of the student body (for comparison, Han Chinese make up over 90% of China’s population).
Last Friday, the gates to the university were shut (the first time I’ve seen that happen here), and guards were only letting in students who had valid Minzu University IDs. When I asked some teachers what was going on, they said they believed some important speaker was coming to campus. At dinner Saturday night, though, a Chinese friend said that she heard there was a protest going on.
And she was right. Here’s what the New York Times had to say:
Posts on the Internet said 400 Tibetan students held a rally on Friday on the campus of Minzu University of China, the specialized school in Beijing. Photographs showed a large group of students gathered on a concrete walkway lined with shrubs. Other photos showed uniformed guards milling around some students…Telephone calls on Friday afternoon to several offices at the university went unanswered.
As the article describes, the protests were in support of a broader movement of protests around China last week, in response to proposals from Beijing to make Tibetan schools conduct classes in Mandarin rather than in the Tibetan language. I’ve only asked a few Chinese people about it this week, but aside from the first friend who gave me the tip nobody was aware that there were protests anywhere in the country.