Chinese Authorities Intensify Crackdown on Tibetan Children’s Education and Religious Freedom Over Winter Break

By Tsering Choephel

DHARAMSALA, 10 Jan: Chinese authorities are conducting door-to-door inspections to enforce a ban on Tibetan children participating in private classes and engaging in religious activities during the winter break, as reported by Radio Free Asia on Tuesday, citing three sources within Tibet.

According to the sources, the Chinese Education Department issued a notice earlier this month, reiterating the existing prohibition on Tibetan children participating in informal Tibetan language classes or workshops during their holidays. The notice instructs local authorities to intensify their supervision of Tibetans and take strict disciplinary action against those violating the rule.

The report states that sources from Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, Labrang Monastery in Amdo province, and Kham Yushu have relayed information about local Chinese authorities in the area taking measures to ensure the strict enforcement of the notice issued by the Chinese Education Department. These measures include random checks in ‘residential areas and commercial establishments’ to investigate and prohibit informal language classes and workshops.

The report also cites a notice issued by Lhasa city authorities on 30 November 2023. In the notice, parents are ordered to “ensure their children are completely free from the influence of religion” and to ensure they “voluntarily distance themselves from places of worship.”

While the Education Department’s notice prohibits private and informal Tibetan language classes and other religious activities for Tibetan children, it allows them to attend classes and workshops taught by government-authorised individuals and organisations, with only subjects approved by the authorities allowed to be taught.

“In the past, there was a strong tradition of providing supplementary, private tuitions to Tibetan children in the fields of Tibetan grammar, religion, math, and storytelling during their winter break,” said the report’s source from Amdo Labrang. “Now, only a few Chinese government-authorised organisations and individuals who carry out political re-education programs are allowed to give [lessons] to Tibetan students.”

The intensifying control and and manipulation of education, at all levels across all sectors, occurs against the backdrop of China’s Patriotic Education Law passed in October 2023. This law, effective from the start of this year, aims to counter “historical nihilism” and safeguard “national unity,” covering ideology, politics, history, culture, national symbols, the beauty of the motherland, national unity, ethnic solidarity, national security and defence, and the deeds of heroes, as reported by Chinese state-run Xinhua. 

The law adheres to the principles enshrined in Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Marxism-Leninism, Deng Xiaoping Thought, and Mao Zedong Thought.

In the already suppressed regions of occupied Tibet, the CCP’s intensifying assimilative drive is becoming alarming and consequential. “With the prohibition of the study of Tibetan language, both in schools and in out-of-school programs, it has now become increasingly evident that young Tibetan children have lost touch with their native language and identity, a very alarming and concerning development,” the report quoted a source from Tibet as saying. 

China’s state-run boarding schools in Tibet, according to the Tibet Action Institutes’ 2021 report, estimate that over 1 million Tibetan children and adolescents between the ages of 4 to 18 are separated from their families and live in these schools, which rights groups describe as CCP’s “colonial-style boarding schools.”

In February 2023, UN experts warned of the threat of CCP’s “mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into the majority Han culture” to the Tibetans’ distinct linguistic and cultural heritage. 

In August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a press conference, condemned the Beijings’ coercive policies that “seek to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans,” and announced that it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved in CCP’s “forced assimilation” policy. 

The European Parliament in December adopted a resolution condemning “the repressive assimilation policies throughout China, especially the boarding school system in Tibet,” calling for immediate “abolishment of the system”

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