News and Views on Tibet

Chinese boarding schools in Tibet an ‘explicit tool’ to assimilate students: Report

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Students at Yiri Ecological forest school in Chamdo (Photo/Global Times)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 9: The US-based group Tibet Action Institute released a report on Wednesday titled, “Separated from their Families, Hidden from the World” which argued that Chinese government policies have build a vast colonial boarding system that target and exploit minorities, especially Tibetans in their pursuit of education. “The schools are a cornerstone of Xi Jinping’s campaign to supplant Tibetan identity with a homogenous Chinese identity in order to neutralize potential resistance to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule,” the group in their press release.

The report found that an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Tibetan students from 6 to 18 of age, as well as an unknown number of four and five-year olds, are currently enrolled in these state-run boarding schools. The report said that the school mechanism in China is “an explicit tool in the CCP’s effort to assimilate Tibetans and neutralize potential threats to Party control.” It also said that the high number of Tibetan students enrolled in boarding schools in the 60-page report is supported by Chinese policy documents, observations from Tibetans, and, for some locations, by Chinese state media.

“By intentionally uprooting Tibetan children from their families and culture and making them live in state-run boarding schools, the Chinese authorities are using one of the most heinous tools of colonization to attack Tibetan identity,” Director of Tibet Action Institute, Lhadon Tethong said. She urged the UN and concerned governments for their urgent intervention into this unprecedented campaign of forced ‘Sinicization’ in Tibet that even targets young children.

The findings also drew similarities between western colonial invasion of indigenous peoples and the ongoing Chinese assimilation project implemented through such colonial education projects. “The colonial boarding school program is an insidious tool in the larger project of forcing Tibetans to adopt a homogenous, patriotic, Chinese identity in order to eliminate challenges to the Party or the state,” the report further argued.

The press introduction to the report stressed that monastery schools and other privately-run Tibetan schools have also been forced to close, as parents are then left with no choice but to send their children away to pursue higher education. The researchers have also documented cases of authorities using threats and intimidation to ensure compliance with the parents. It draws on a range of both primary and secondary sources that include first-hand accounts from inside Tibet, statements from exiled Tibetans who survived the boarding system in Tibet.

2 Responses

  1. This is similar to what the US did with Native Americans. These kinds of schools are a tragic, abusive and traumatic experience, one of great disconnection from culture, community, and self. Prisons in the US are filled with Native Americans who grew up in these kinds of boarding schools. The hurt they incurred during this kind of “education” accumulated to the point where they became unable to stand it and caused violence themselves. Please, World, don’t repeat this travesty!

    1. Canada and Australia also have a shameful legacy of residential schools, often with the participation of clergy and nuns.

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