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Dharamshala – Raising serious concerns about the ever deteriorating human rights situation in Chinese occupied Tibet, experts from different parts of the world appealed to the G7 world leaders, who are going to meet at Hiroshima on 19-21 May, to ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop his ongoing project of colonial boarding schools in Tibet. Deliberating on the subject “China’s Colonial Practices and Threat to the Cultural Identity of Tibet” in an international webinar discussed in detail various human rights issues raised recently by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).

The webinar was held on March 31, 2023, and was jointly organised by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). The experts who participated in this webinar included John Jones, Policy and Research Manager of ‘Free-Tibet’ of United Kingdom; Marco Respinti, a senior Italian journalist and Director-in-Charge of ‘Bitter Winter’ which is a multi-language newspaper on religion from Milan; and Ms RinzinChoedon, National Director of ‘Students for a Free Tibet India’ from Dharamshala. Tsering Chomphel, Joint Secretary of TYC and co-host of the webinar presented the vote of thanks and Prof (Ms) Aaayushi Ketkar of the Special Centre for National Security Studies at JNU and a scholar in international relations and security handled the question-answer session. Vijay Kranti, a veteran Tibetologist and Chairman of CHASE moderated the webinar.

Rinzin Choedon especially focused on the ongoing Chinese campaign of forcibly pushing Tibetan children into a chain of residential schools that are established and run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) across Tibet. “These schools are being systematically run by the Chinese Communist Party to brainwash the entire new generation of Tibet with the aim of eradicating the very identity of Tibet. Already more than one million Tibetan Children have been forcibly taken away from their families and lodged in these schools. This is a matter of concern not only for the people of Tibet but for entire humanity because it has the potential of completely wiping out a rich culture which belongs to the whole world,” she said. Taking note of the international concerns being raised on some platforms of the United Nations and some parliaments she added, “We Tibetans and supporters of Tibet have been raising this issue on various forums for some time. It is a matter of satisfaction that some human rights bodies associated with the UN have now started raising this issue.”

Rinzin pointed out that the process of wiping out Tibetan identity has gained special momentum since President Xi Jinping has come to power, “The process of destroying Tibetan culture and identity has been already going on for decades in Tibet. But unfortunately, this campaign has become more tense under President Xi’s rule.” Marco Respinti presented a detailed analysis of the recent report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations (CESCR) which was published during its recent and 73rd session on March 6th. He pointed out many serious issues raised by the CESCR like forcible resettlement of Tibetan nomadic herders; closure of ongoing Tibetan language schools run voluntarily by the Tibetan society; large-scale campaign to eradicate Tibetan culture and language; Sinicization of Tibetan society, especially by enforcing the coerced boarding school system on Tibetan children; and suppression of other human rights of Tibetan people. Commenting on the denial of these charges of CESCR by the Chinese regime by calling these accusations as ‘lies’ he said, “Over the last few years, the CCP’s position has in fact become quite indefensible even for the most pro-PRC partisan. It is in fact impossible to hide the CCP’s misdeeds. Even the CCP changed its own narrative on its own crimes a number of times. But the impossibility of hiding hard facts has also heavily influenced PRC’s reactions. Bullying its adversaries, as well as its victims, today the PRC substantially responds to accusations by saying ‘so what?’ And this is quite alarming”.

Underlining the adamant attitude of the Chinese regime towards such findings of world bodies Marco said, “The CCP will continue its threat to and persecution of Tibet’s cultural identity unless the world has the means to stop it. As an observer, I am not in the position to suggest which means the world should have to adapt to compel the PRC to more humane behavior. I can only suggest that until the world judges it more convenient to trade with the PRC’s power or cherish the CCP’s hybris, Tibetans and other peoples will continue walking their paths of sorrow.

John Jones who is a long-term China watcher and keeps a close watch on the human rights situation in Tibet, made a special reference to the ongoing blood testing and DNA sampling of the Tibetan population by the Chinese police in Tibet. He explained how his group ‘Free-Tibet’ in Britain and many other Tibet support groups across Europe and USA are running a campaign to stop the American company Thermo Fisher Scientific from supplying DNA testing kits to the Chinese police department. “We are now directly approaching and sensitizing the staff of this company about the dangers involved for the Tibetan population in this kind of mass profiling. Our campaign is aimed at raising the conscience of the staff and persuading this company from becoming a tool in this inhuman act of the Chinese government,” he said.

John referred to the experience of Dr Gyal Lo who is a leading Tibetan advocacy expert. Narrating Dr Gyal Lo’s experience he said, “He saw in his own family how within three months of being sent to boarding preschool, children began to speak to each other only in Chinese, even though they had been raised speaking Tibetan. When the children went home on weekends, they stayed silent in the house, almost acting like guests.” Expressing relief over the issue of China’s colonial boarding schools in Tibet being discussed now on international platforms he said, “It is heartening to see that news magazines like Time and Newsweek and UN bodies have started taking up this issue.” The participants supported John’s appeal to the world leaders who are going to participate in the forthcoming G-7 summit to ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop these colonial boarding schools in Tibet.