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Uyghur language school Shuts Down in Pakistan under pressure from Chinese Embassy

Posted by Author on May 20, 2010

Radio Free Asia, May 20, 2010 –

HONG KONG— A Uyghur language school in northern Pakistan has been shuttered following orders from authorities acting on pressure from Beijing, according to school officials.

The Omer Uyghur Language School in Rawalpindi, in the Majha region of Punjab province, closed its doors in April after Chinese Embassy officials spoke with the Pakistani government and the school’s landlord, accusing school officials of maintaining ties with a Uyghur independence group.

The school had also faced fierce competition from a new institute established by the Chinese Embassy called the Big Montessori School—built directly in front of the Omer Uyghur Language School and opened for classes on April 7, 2010, Omer school officials said.

Omer Khan, 35, who co-founded the Omer Uyghur Language School with his brother Akbar in March 2009, said he is trying to convince the Pakistani government to allow him to reopen.

His brother, Akbar, said the Uyghur community “simply wants a place to learn the Uyghur language and has no political motivations.”

The Big Montessori School has yet to conduct classes in the Uyghur language, despite a pledge from Chinese officials that it would do so, in addition to providing all fees for attendance and school materials.

Classes are currently conducted in Urdu and English, according to local members of the Uyghur community.

Unlikely leader

A former employee of the Omer Uyghur Language School, who asked not to be named, said the Chinese Embassy had also distributed 5 million Pakistan rupees (U.S. $60,000) to the Pakistan Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi, which it said was to be used for the new school it had established.

“The Chinese government spending money on a new school is only going to create problems for the Uyghur community here. They just want to start trouble by saying there are links between our school and the World Uyghur Congress,” the employee said, referring to the Munich-based independence group.

“The new school is not teaching Uyghur. I’m very disappointed because the Omer School has been shut down and the new school was built directly in front of the former school,” he said.

Raza Han, president of the Big Montessori School, has served as a liaison between the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the Pakistan Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi, of which he also serves as president.

When contacted by telephone in Uyghur for comment, Raza Han seemed unable to communicate clearly.

“I am not a Uyghur,” Raza Han stuttered, before refusing to answer further questions.

The former employee at the Omer School said he could not understand why Raza Han had been put in charge of the Uyghur community, or of the school that was meant to provide the community with language and cultural classes.

“How can Raza Han claim to be the head of the Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi if he is not even a Uyghur?” he asked……. (more details from Radio Free Asia)

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