A recent report by the Tibet Action Institute has revealed China’s vast system of ‘colonial boarding schools’ inside Tibet, where children as young as four are separated from their parents. As per the report titled, ‘Separated from their families, hidden from the world- China’s vast system of colonial boarding schools inside Tibet’, Chinese government policies are forcing three out of every four Tibetan students into a vast network of colonial boarding schools and subjecting them to indoctrination.
The institute claimed that these boarding schools are a cornerstone of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s campaign to supplant Tibetan identity with a homogenous Chinese identity in order to neutralise potential resistance to Chinese Community Party (CCP) rule. It found that an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Tibetan students aged 6 to 18, as well as an unknown number of four and five-year-olds, are admitted in such state-run colonial boarding schools. The report said that these schools function as sites for remoulding children into Chinese nationals loyal to the CCP.
The report stated that these kids are removed from their families and communities, made to study primarily in Chinese, barred from practising their religion, and subjected to political indoctrination.
Tibet Action Institute director Lhadon Tethong said that by intentionally uprooting Tibetan children from their families and culture and making them live in state-run boarding schools, Chinese officials are using one of the most “heinous tools of colonisation” to attack Tibetan identity.
“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,” Tethong added.
China’s crackdown on the Tibetan language
Further, as per the report, over the last decade, China has systematically eliminated local schools in Tibet and replaced them with centralised boarding schools, including those for elementary-aged children. The Tibet Action Institute said that monastery schools and other privately-run Tibetan schools have also been forced to close, leaving parents with no choice but to send their kids away. In cases where parents try to resist, Chinese officials use threats and intimidation to ensure compliance, the report claimed.
“China claims to be educating Tibetan children, but the world knows what it looks like when children are pushed into residential schools run by a state that wants to wipe out their culture,” said Tethong.
“Beijing must be pressed to respect the right of all Tibetan children to receive a high-quality mother-tongue education without being separated from their families, before any more irreparable harm is done,” he added.
Notably, China has been repeatedly accused of imposing restrictions on religious freedom in Tibet. Last month, the Chinese Communist Party had ordered educational institutes to stop offering learning in the Tibetan language. The order also warned violators to get ready for “serious legal consequences and punishment”.
“No individual or organisation is allowed to hold informal classes or workshops to teach the Tibetan language during the winter holidays when the schools are closed,” the order stated asking educational institutes to teach subjects like Maths and science only in the Chinese language.