For Immediate Release
August 22, 2023
Washington – Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States government will impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials “for their involvement in the forcible assimilation of more than one million Tibetan children in government-run boarding schools.” In a strongly worded statement , he condemned China’s “coercive policies [that] seek to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans” and “urge[d] PRC authorities to end the coercion of Tibetan children into government-run boarding schools and to cease repressive assimilation policies, both in Tibet and throughout other parts of the PRC.”
“By announcing its intention to ban Chinese officials involved in the colonial boarding school system in Tibet, the US government is sending them a message that their crimes are known and they will now be treated as pariahs in the free world,” said Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute. “We wholeheartedly welcome the bold leadership shown by Secretary Blinken and encourage other countries to take similar measures against all those responsible for this genocidal policy”, Tethong continued.
“I worked in the field of Tibetan education for decades and I know who the academics and officials are that masterminded this system of separating Tibetan children from their families in order to eliminate Tibetan language, culture, and identity,” said Dr. Gyal Lo, a Tibetan scholar and educational sociologist who fled from China to Canada in December 2020 and now works as a Tibet Specialist with Tibet Action Institute. “We have provided their information to the U.S. and other governments and look forward to seeing them held accountable by the international community for their crimes in Tibet,” Dr. Gyal Lo continued.
Similarly in June, the Canadian parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights released a damning report  on “The Human Rights Situation of Tibetans and the Chinese Residential Boarding School and Preschool System,” that recommended, among other measures, that the Government of Canada sanction Chinese officials who are responsible for the implementation of the forced boarding school and preschool system in Tibet.
“I have seen the residential schools in Tibet with my own eyes, and the situation is very grave, especially for the youngest preschool age children,” said Dr. Gyal Lo. “On behalf of Tibetans in Tibet, I express my gratitude to the U.S. government and appeal to all governments, especially the Government of Canada, where I live, to act urgently on this issue as it will make all the difference for Tibetan children, their families, and the survival of our language and culture,” he continued.
International concern about the residential school system has been building  since a Tibet Action Institute report, released in December 2021 , 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  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  for at least five days in a week.  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
- 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/
- On June 16, 2023, The Human Rights Situation of Tibetans and the Chinese Residential Boarding School and Preschool System Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development was presented to Canada’s House of Commons, available at: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/441/FAAE/Reports/RP12533683/faaerp19/faaerp19-e.pdf
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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/.