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August 22, 2017

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A renowned Tibetan school for the blind 'is being threatened with closure'

BEIJING — A famous school for the blind in Tibet is threatened with closure, with no official explanation, after operating for 19 years, the school's co-founder told dpa on Tuesday.

The Braille Without Borders preparatory school for the blind in Lhasa, as well as a vocational training farm five hours west of the city, could be shut down despite its results having repeatedly been praised by authorities over the years, said Sabriye Tenberken, a German who founded the school with her Dutch partner.

The school, which has so far trained about 300 children aged 6 to 15, is run in partnership with the Tibet Disabled Persons' Federation (TDPF), a public agency under the umbrella of China Disabled Persons' Federation.

Tenberken said she has been notified by the Tibetan agency that the school and vocational farm would be shut down, and the training that aims to help blind people to integrate into society discontinued.

"We don't know why it has to stop," Tenberken said, adding that Chinese authorities have always supported and lauded the project. Tenberken has received a slew of awards from Chinese authorities over the years for her work in Tibet.

Authorities haven't yet made a final decision, but they plan to continue providing care to the blind children, said a person who works for the local authorities but wasn't authorized to speak with media.

Students would be placed in special schools, where Tenberken says they won't receive the specialized training for the blind necessary to become self-sufficient.

Beijing has increasingly cracked down on foreign NGOs in recent years.

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