A group of three UN independent experts strongly condemned China for forcibly separating over “1 million Tibetan children from families” and assimilating Tibetan culture at colonial style boarding schools, in a strongly worded press release, earlier today. Recently, the UN Experts had made public their communication with the Chinese government expressing serious concerns over the situation.
In the press release, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Mr. Fernand de Varennes; Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Ms. Farida Shaheed and Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki jointly voiced concern over Chinese policies aimed at “assimilating Tibetan people culturally, religiously and linguistically through a residential school system.” The experts warned around a million Tibetan children had been affected by the policies.
The experts said they were “disturbed” by “the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as a mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards”, in recent years.
While describing the mandatory compulsory education curriculum in Mandarin without any access to Tibetan language, history and culture in China led residential schools for Tibetan children, the UN experts said “as a result, Tibetan children are losing their facility with their native language and the ability to communicate easily with their parents and grandparents in the Tibetan language, which contributes to their assimilation and erosion of their identity”.
The experts also highlighted the share of residential schools in Tibet is “much higher” compared to other parts of areas under China, and this has been increasing in recent years. The forced closure of rural schools in Tibetan populated areas and replacement by township or country-level schools which exclusively use Chinese in teaching and communications has further added to the share of residential schools in Tibet, said the UN Experts.
The experts expressed alarm at the Chinese policies of “forced assimilation” of Tibetan cultural identity into “dominant Han-Chinese majority, through a series of oppressive actions against Tibetan education, religious and linguistic institutions”. And further noted China’s relentless persecution of Tibetan individuals advocating Tibetan language and education. The UN experts said they are in contact with the Chinese authorities regarding the aforementioned issues also raised in its communication to China in November 2022.
Representative Thinlay Chukki noted that “this is one of the first press releases by the UN experts on Tibet, detailing the egregious human rights violations in Tibet and we hope many will follow especially given the dire situation in Tibet, which remains the least free regions in the world. As noted by the experts, even though there are many residential schools in other parts of China their numbers are much higher in Tibet. This points to the concerted and systematic efforts of China to destroy Tibetan language, culture and religion. While communicating with China, we call upon the experts to press China to close down these so-called residential schools and to provide detailed reports on the same.”