UN experts alarmed by separation of 1 million Tibetan children from families by China’s forced assimilation policies

UN experts are alarmed by the separation of 1 million Tibetan children from their families by China’s forced assimilation policies in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Image: Tibet.net.

DHARAMSALA, 8 Feb: UN experts have expressed grave concern over China’s policies aimed at assimilating Tibetan people culturally, religiously and linguistically through a residential school system that has affected around a million Tibetan children.

“We are very disturbed that in recent years 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,” read a joint statement issued by the UN experts, Mr Fernand de Varennes( UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues), Ms Farida Shaheed, (Special Rapporteur on the right to education) and  Alexandra Xanthaki, (Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights). 

UN experts have further said that China’s policy of “acculturation and assimilation of Tibetan culture” in residential schools in Tibet, is built around majority Han culture, with textbook content reflecting almost solely the lived experience of Han students. Children of the Tibetan minority are forced to complete a ‘compulsory education’ curriculum in Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) without access to traditional or culturally relevant learning. 

“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 said.

Raising concerns about a reported substantial increase in the number of residential schools operating in and outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the number of Tibetan children living in them, the statement added that “ this is achieved by the closure of rural schools in areas which tend to be populated by Tibetans, and their replacement by township or county-level schools which almost exclusively use Putonghua in teaching and communications, and usually requiring children to board.” 

“Alarmed by what appears to be a policy of forced assimilation of the Tibetan identity into the dominant Han-Chinese majority, through a series of oppressive actions against Tibetan educational, religious and linguistic institutions,” the experts have said that “This is a reversal of policies which were more inclusive or accommodating in some respects.”

The experts have already expressed their concerns in a letter to the Chinese government earlier on 11 Nov. 2022 and say they remain in contact with Chinese officials.

Meanwhile, the Central Tibetan Administration, commonly known as the Tibetan government in exile has stated that the UN experts’ “serious concern” over the policy of “acculturation and assimilation of Tibetan culture” in China-occupied Tibet echoes the “concern expressed by the CTA and Tibetan rights groups over the systematic eradication of Tibetan culture, identity and language including removing Tibetan as a medium of teaching instruction. 

Additionally, CTA’s Representative Thinlay Chukki from Tibet Bureau Geneva has said that “the Chinese government should oblige the demands of the UN experts and submit details pertaining to its acculturation and assimilation policies against Tibetans particularly being implemented through residential schools,” reported the CTA’s official website, Tibet.net.

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