Extensive colonial boarding school system discovered in Tibet
Chinese government policies force three out of four Tibetan students to join a vast network of colonial boarding schools, separating children as young as four from their parents, Tibet Action Institute disclosed in a report Wednesday. The schools are the cornerstone of Xi Jinping’s campaign to replace Tibetan identity with a homogenous Chinese identity to neutralize potential resistance to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule.
The report, “Separated from their families, hidden from the world: China’s vast system of colonial boarding schools inside Tibet,” reveals that approximately 800,000 to 900,000 Tibetan students between the ages of 6 and 18, as well as an unknown number of 4- and 5-year-olds are in these public schools. Schools function as sites to turn children into Chinese nationals loyal to the CCP. Removed from their families and communities, students must study primarily in Chinese, are prohibited from practicing their religion, and are subjected to political indoctrination.
“By intentionally uprooting Tibetan children from their families and culture and placing them in public boarding schools, the Chinese authorities are using one of the most heinous tools of colonization to attack Tibetan identity,” said Lhadon Tethong. , director of the Tibet Action Institute. .
“China’s unprecedented campaign of forced sinicization in Tibet targets even the youngest children and demands the urgent intervention of the United Nations and concerned governments.”
Over the past decade, Chinese authorities have systematically eliminated local schools in Tibet and replaced them with centralized boarding schools, including for elementary-aged children. Monastery schools and other private Tibetan schools were also forced to close, leaving parents no choice but to send their children away. In cases where parents attempt to resist, authorities resort to threats and intimidation to ensure compliance.
When parents in one village resisted sending their children to boarding school, they were repeatedly visited by the authorities. At one such meeting, in the presence of the police, they were told: “…If we have to come back tomorrow, it won’t be good. …if you don’t listen [to us] we will press [pressure] you one by one. It’s easy for us to do that…. If you continue to choose not to acknowledge this policy and refuse to send your children to school, we will consider this a protest.…”
Researchers in Tibet and China have documented severe emotional and psychological damage to Tibetan students living in colonial boarding schools. Restrictions on access to Tibet make it impossible to verify current conditions first-hand, but interviews with Tibetans abroad who attended earlier iterations of boarding school in Tibet paint a harrowing picture of children living in poor conditions. conditions, subjected to physical and sexual abuse, racism and discrimination, as well as political indoctrination.
The report draws on a range of primary and secondary sources, including first-hand accounts from inside Tibet that describe how China’s education policies affect the lived experience of Tibetans on the ground, statements from Tibetans in exile who are survivors of the Chinese colonial boarding school system. , data collected from official sources and scholars in Tibet, China and abroad.
“China claims to educate Tibetan children, but the world knows what it looks like when children are pushed into state-run boarding schools that want to wipe out their culture,” Tethong said. “Beijing must be urged to respect the right of all Tibetan children to receive a quality education in their mother tongue without being separated from their families before further irreparable damage is done.”
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