A recent United Nations report claims China has separated approximately 1 million Tibetan children from their families and placed them into government-run boarding schools.
The separations are part of China’s efforts to have the children “culturally, religiously and linguistically” absorb the dominant Han Chinese culture, according to the U.N.
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.
The experts include Fernand de Varennes, U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues; Farida Shaheed, special rapporteur on the right to education; and Alexandra Xanthaki, special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.
Children from rural communities are placed into residential schools, which are built around Han culture and conducted solely in Mandarin Chinese.
The governmental schools reportedly provide little to no study on the Tibetan minority’s language, history and culture.
According to the experts, “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 U.N. expressed concerns over a reported increase in the number of residential schools operating in and outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The percentage of boarding students is more than 20% nationwide, with U.N. experts noting the vast majority of Tibetan children are placed in residential schools.
This increase in the number of boarding Tibetan students 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. Many of those residential schools are situated far from the family homes of students boarding in them.
According to the experts, the policies run “contrary to the prohibition of discrimination and the rights to education, linguistic and cultural rights, freedom of religion or belief and other minority rights of the Tibetan people.”
“This is a reversal of policies which were more inclusive or accommodating in some respects,” the experts said.
According to the U.N. report, the Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs called on the ethnic groups in 2021 to place the interests of the Chinese nation above all.
This call re-affirmed the idea of building a modern and strong socialist state based on a single Chinese national identity. In this context, initiatives to promote Tibetan language and culture are reportedly being suppressed, and individuals advocating for Tibetan language and education are persecuted.
U.N. experts are reportedly in contact with Chinese authorities regarding the issue.
This is the latest case of a prolonged cultural assault against minorities in China since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012.