United Nation experts warned that around a million Tibetan minority children are being affected by Chinese government policies aimed at cultural, religious, and linguistic assimilation through a residential school system.
The experts said that "We are deeply concerned that, in recent years, the Tibetan children's residential school system appears to have acted as a mandatory large-scale programme aimed at assimilation of Tibetans into majority Han culture, in violation of international human rights standards”.
The educational content and environment in residential schools are built around the majority Han culture, with textbook content reflecting almost entirely the lived experience of Han students. Tibetan minority children are forced to complete a 'compulsory education' curriculum in Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) with no access to traditional or culturally relevant learning. The Putonghua language governmental schools do not offer a thorough examination of the Tibetan minority's language, history, and culture.
"As a result, Tibetan children are losing their facility with their native language, as well as the ability to communicate easily with their parents and grandparents in Tibetan," the experts said. They expressed concern about a reported significant increase in the number of Tibetan children living in residential schools in and outside the Tibet Autonomous Region.
While there are residential schools in other parts of China, their prevalence in Tibetan minority areas is much higher, and this percentage has been increasing in recent years. While the national percentage of boarding students is more than 20%, information received indicates that the vast majority of Tibetan children, nearly one million in total, are enrolled in residential schools.
"This increase in the number of boarding Tibetan students is achieved by the closure of rural schools in Tibetan-populated areas, and their replacement by township or county-level schools that almost exclusively use Putonghua in teaching and communication, and usually require children to board," experts explained. "Many of those residential schools are located far away from the family homes of the students who board there."
"We are concerned about what appears to be a policy of forced assimilation of Tibetan identity into the dominant Han-Chinese majority, as evidenced by a series of oppressive actions against Tibetan educational, religious, and linguistic institutions," the experts said.
According to UN experts, the policies violate the prohibition on discrimination as well as the Tibetan people's rights to education, linguistic and cultural rights, freedom of religion or belief, and other minority rights.
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Edited and collated by Team TRC