China’s coercive school system aims to make children alien to their Tibetan root

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Third-grade students attend class at Nachitang Primary School in Jiantang Town of Shangri-la County. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

(TibetanReview.net, Dec08’21) – China has set up in Tibet a vast network of boarding schools where children as young as four years old have been coerced to enroll and kept away from their parents and community to be moulded as Chinese-speaking and -cultured citizens, totally alien to their parental roots. It is part of President Xi Jinping’s misguided Sinicization move to supposedly make the People’s Republic of China a strong and united dominion of one language, one culture, and one people under a one-party rule.

The policies are forcing three out of every four Tibetan students into a vast network of colonial boarding schools, separating children as young as four from their parents, said the group Tibet Action Institute in a report released Dec 7.

The report, “Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet,” finds that an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Tibetan students aged six to 18, as well as an unknown number of four and five-year olds, are in these state-run schools.

“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,” said Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute.

She has called for urgent intervention of the United Nations and concerned governments on this issue.

Referring to development leading up to the current situation, the group said that over the last decade, Chinese authorities had systematically eliminated local schools in Tibet and replaced them with centralized boarding schools, including for elementary-aged children. Monastery schools and other privately-run Tibetan schools were forced to close, leaving parents with no choice but to send their children away. In cases where parents tried to resist, authorities used threats and intimidation to ensure compliance.

By way of an example, the group has referred to an incident in which parents in one village had resisted sending their children to boarding school, to be visited multiple times by authorities. “At one of these meetings, with police present, they were told: ‘…If we have to come back tomorrow, it won’t be good….If you don’t listen [to us] we will squeeze [pressure] you one by one. That is easy for us to do….If you continue to choose not to acknowledge this policy and refuse to send your children to the schools, we will consider this to be a protest.…’”

The report is based on both primary and secondary sources, including first-hand accounts from inside Tibet, data collected from official sources, and scholars in Tibet, China, and abroad.

“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 has said.

Tibet Action Institute was founded in 2009 in North America to use digital communication tools and strategic nonviolent action to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the Tibet movement in the digital era.

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