Tibetan students ages 18-21 are being offered reimbursement of their school fees in exchange for enrolling in a two-year course of military training, as tensions continue to rise along the region’s border with India, Tibetan sources say.
Students in high schools and colleges enrolled in the program may continue their studies after their training has ended, according to a recent Chinese government notice sent to students’ phones by text. Students already receiving state aid for their schooling are required to enroll, however.
The deadline for enrollment in the program is August 15, the official notice states.
“Military training has been a part of our schools’ curriculum in the past, but this is the first time that an official government notice has been sent out to all the schools promoting enrollment in programs of military training,” a high school student in Tibet told RFA in a written message.
Tsewang Dorjee—a researcher at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibet Policy Institute—said China’s losses last year in clashes with India and concern for security along its long shared border are driving the new push in military training for Tibetans.
China’s government received many criticisms from journalists and other experts inside China over its handling of the border clashes last year in India’s northwestern region of Ladakh, Dorjee told RFA.
“To counter these criticisms, the government is now laying out policies where Tibetans, who adapt more easily than the Chinese to high-altitude environments, are being forced to join military schools to further secure and patrol the border,” he said.
China is now establishing new villages along Tibet’s border with India for Tibetans sent from Nagchu and other areas, Dorjee added, calling the move a “new strategy in which the Chinese Communist Party is deploying both military units and lay Tibetans who are being relocated to enhance security at the border.”
No benefit to Tibetans
China and India share a 4,000 kilometer-long border, and China cannot station troops along its entire length, noted Indian defense analyst and retired general PG Kamath, adding, “China should resolve its border issues with India, but they are not prepared to do this.”
“And since they are not prepared to do this, they are forcing Tibetans into villages that are closer to the area of Ladakh and the McMahon Line,” Kamath said, referring to an early demarcation of the boundary between Tibet and British-ruled India agreed by Britain and Tibet in 1914.
“So these developments were never meant [to benefit] the Tibetans,” Kamath said.
“As far as I am concerned, China’s policy is that the Tibetans will be used as an instrument in their greater design to see that Tibet and its people, culture, and religion are all Sinicized.”
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.