Ottawa, June 16, 2023 –
Original Press Release link: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/SDIR/news-release/12513364
The year 2023 marks the 28th anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama. This pre-eminent figure of Tibetan Buddhism was abducted by the Chinese authorities at the tender age of 6. He has not been released since.
To this day, many Tibetan children continue to be taken away from their homes and separated from their families. Reports indicate that 800,000 Tibetan children are currently enrolled in Chinese residential school, with the purpose of assimilation.
Today, the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, upon unanimous consent of its members, presented a report to the House of Commons entitled The Human Rights Situation of Tibetans and the Chinese Residential Boarding School and Preschool System.
Despite Tibet losing its status as an independent state in 1951, Tibetans have, for the most part, maintained robust and distinct cultural traditions. However, the international community has become increasingly concerned about structures and systems developed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to assimilate the Tibetan minority.
Within the last year, the international community has begun to address the violations of the Tibetan minority rights through concerted diplomatic actions. United Nations international human rights bodies and rapporteurs have expressed deep concern about the expansion of the residential school system in Tibet and the indoctrination taking place within it.
Canada, along with many other democracies, is now called to act. Due to the increasingly dire situation, the Subcommittee chose to undertake a study on this matter. The Subcommittee heard testimony and received evidence from Tibetan rights activists, academics and human rights experts.
Witnesses described how the People’s Republic of China is exerting increasing control in Tibet through policies that are targeting Tibetans’ cultural rights. Testimony indicated that these policies were part of a larger agenda developed by government architects at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party. Similar policies are also being carried out against other ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, in other parts of the country.
The Subcommittee was told that the residential school system, which now also includes preschool-aged children, is enrolling a growing number of Tibetan students. Local options for schooling in Tibet have been systematically closed. At the same time, residential schools have phased out Tibetan language instruction and curriculum materials. Tibetan children are separated from their families to erase their cultural identity and cut ties with their maternal language.
The Subcommittee’s report has 18 recommendations. The recommendations aim to support internationally-led investigations and sanctions; to protect activists and researchers from harassment and intimidation, inside and outside Canada; to advocate for independent academic research in Tibet; and, to support measures to preserve Tibetan language and culture.
Finally, along with the witnesses heard as part of the study, the Subcommittee calls for the resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue, as unanimously agreed upon by the House of Commons on December 14, 2022. The Subcommittee believes that the Canadian government – by recognizing the importance of accountability with respect to linguistic and cultural discrimination – can reiterate its commitment to advancing human rights internationally and can demonstrate the merits of reconciliation through such dialogue.
A copy of the report may be obtained from the subcommittee’s website.