For Immediate Release

September 4, 2023

Statement of Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute, in response to the recent PRC Government-organized trip of UN Ambassadors to Tibet, August 28-September 2, 2023.

Boston – The Chinese government organized a tour of Tibet from August 28-Sept 2 [1] for a group of Ambassadors to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, including Cuba, Belarus, Venezuela, Pakistan and Nicaragua, in an attempt to whitewash its human rights record, especially scathing international criticism of its colonial boarding school system holding 1 million children across Tibet. The move comes on the heels of the US State Department’s August 22 announcement [2] of a visa ban on unnamed Chinese government officials “for their involvement in the forcible assimilation of more than one million Tibetan children in government-run boarding schools.”

In response to the UN Ambassadors’ tour of Tibet, Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute, who first exposed China’s vast colonial boarding school system in Tibet in a groundbreaking report in 2021 [3], stated:

“Despite the obvious farcical nature of this trip, the international community should see this as evidence that China is not immune to pressure on its rights record and must be further pressed to halt the campaign of ethnic elimination and repression in Tibet, including the placement of one million children, some as young as four years old, in a system of colonial boarding schools.

“China has blocked the UN from gaining free and unfettered access to Tibet for decades and is now trying to use a secretive tour of some of its closest authoritarian allies to whitewash its unrelenting repression in general and the colonial boarding school system in particular.

“China thought locking down Tibet would make the issue disappear, but Tibetans’ courageous commitment to defending their children, their language and their culture, together with the Tibet Action report on the colonial boarding school system, is forcing Beijing to answer for its crimes.”

International concern about the residential school system has been building [4] since a Tibet Action Institute report, released in December 2021 [5], revealed that Chinese government policies are coercing at least three out of every four Tibetan students aged 6-18 – approximately 800,000 – from across historical Tibet [6] into a vast network of colonial boarding schools. In addition, more than 100,000 four- to six-year-old children are estimated to be separated from their parents and living in boarding preschools [7] for at least five days a week [8].

Tibetan parents are compelled to send their children to these state-run boarding schools due to a lack of alternatives and the highly repressive political environment. The schools function as sites for re-molding children into Chinese nationals loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. Students must study primarily in Chinese, are barred from practicing their religion, and are subjected to a highly politicized curriculum intended to make them identify as Chinese.


Lhadon Tethong, Director, Tibet Action Institute  +1 (917) 418-4181

Dr. Gyal Lo, Tibet Specialist, Tibet Action Institute  +1 (647) 619-9821


  1. According to Reuters, from August 28-September 2, several UN ambassadors, including those of Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, and Pakistan, were taken on a tour of Tibet by the Chinese government: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-envoys-tour-tibet-china-organised-trip-amid-rights-scrutiny-2023-09-01/
  2. On August 22, 2023, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a Press Statement, Announcement of Visa Restrictions to Address Forced Assimilation in Tibet, available at: https://www.state.gov/announcement-of-visa-restrictions-to-address-forced-assimilation-in-tibet/
  3. Tibet Action Institute, Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet, 2021, pg. 17-21, available at: https://tibetaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/2021_TAI_ColonialBoardingSchoolReport_Digital.pdf.
  4. On November 11, 2022, four UN Special Rapporteurs issued a communication to the Government of the People’s Republic of China, available at: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=27444.
    On November 30, 2022, Co-Chairs of the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling for a UN investigation into the colonial boarding school system in Tibet, available at: https://www.cecc.gov/media-center/press-releases/chairs-seek-un-investigation-on-forced-family-separations-in-tibet.
    On February 6, 2023, Four UN Special Rapporteurs issued the media release China: UN experts alarmed by separation of 1 million Tibetan children from families and forced assimilation at residential schools, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/02/china-un-experts-alarmed-separation-1-million-tibetan-children-families-and#:~:text=GENEVA%20(6%20February%202023)%20%E2%80%93,%2C%20UN%20experts*%20warned%20today.
    On March 6, 2023, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) echoed these concerns and called for China to “abolish immediately the coerced residential (boarding) system imposed on Tibetan children…”, available at: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E%2FC.12%2FCHN%2FCO%2F3&Lang=en. Since then, several governments have echoed the CESCR’s concerns and recommendations, including Switzerland and Germany.
    On May 30, 2023, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) raised concerns about the Chinese Government’s coercive residential school system in Tibet and called for it to be abolished: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2FC%2FCHN%2FCO%2F9&Lang=en
  5. See supra, Tibet Action Institute, Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet, 2021, pg. 17-21, available at: https://tibetaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/2021_TAI_ColonialBoardingSchoolReport_Digital.pdf.
  6. Tibet is made up of the Tibetan provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang, which the Chinese government split into new administrative divisions in the 1960s: the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and ten Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures and two counties. When the Chinese government references Tibet, it is referring only to the TAR, which contains less than half the Tibetan population.
  7. In China these programs are described as “kindergarten.” In Tibetan areas, preschool education consists of at least two years of Mandarin-medium instruction, misleadingly called “bilingual education.”
  8. Tibet Action Institute, Eyewitness: China Operating Mandatory Boarding Preschools Across Tibet, 2022: https://tibetaction.net/2022/05/24/eyewitness-confirms-mandatory-boarding-preschools-operating-across-tibet/.


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