The United States has announced new visa restrictions against Chinese officials over their involvement in the alleged “forced assimilation” of children in Tibet.
U.S Secretary of state, Antony Blinken disclosed that the U.S would restrict visas to Chinese officials behind the policy of state boarding schools.
Blinken noted in a statement, “These coercive policies seek to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans.”
“We urge PRC [People’s Republic of China] 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.”Antony Blinken
Blinken did not state the names of the sanctioned individuals. Without giving further details, a state department spokesperson revealed that the new restrictions would apply to current and former officials involved in education policy in Tibet.
In his statement, Blinken cited a figure given in February by three UN experts who stated in a report that around one million Tibetan children have been forcibly removed into boarding schools.
The UN experts expressed concern that the residential schools system appeared to “act as a mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture.”
They stated in their report that the children had been separated from their families to attend such institutions where they were forced to complete a “compulsory education” curriculum in the Mandarin Chinese language, with no substantive study of Tibetan language, history and culture.
“As a result, Tibetan children are losing their facility with their native language and the ability to communicate easily with their parents and grandparents in the Tibetan language, which contributes to their assimilation and erosion of their identity.”UN experts
The U.S separately imposed sanctions in December on two top-ranking Chinese officials, Wu Yingjie and Zhang Hongbo, over widespread human rights violations in Tibet.
International Campaign For Tibet Hails U.S Decision
The International Campaign for Tibet, a pressure group close to the region’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, applauded Blinken’s action against the “unconscionable” separation of children.
Tencho Gyatso, the group’s President said, “As the Dalai Lama often says, Tibetan culture, based on peace and compassion, has value to offer to the entire world.”
“This boarding school program targets the most vulnerable and impressionable minds and is aimed at converting Tibetans into Chinese, cementing the Chinese government’s control over Tibet and annihilating the Tibetan culture and way of life.”Tencho Gyatso
Beijing criticized the newly announced sanctions as “smears” that “seriously undermine China-US relations.” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, told a news agency that the schools were set up to cater to the needs of the local population.
“Boarding schools have gradually developed into one of the important modes of running schools in China’s ethnic minority areas, and the centralised way of running schools effectively solves the problem of ethnic minority students’ difficulty in attending school at a distance where the local people live scattered.”Liu Pengyu
Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control by China.
China took control of Tibet in 1950 as part of what it described as the “peaceful liberation” of the region.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He has called Beijing’s control a “cultural genocide”.
Beijing claims he is a dangerous separatist and instead recognises the current Panchen Lama as the highest religious figure in Tibet. The Panchen Lama was installed by the party.