The US has unveiled new visa restrictions targeting Chinese officials allegedly involved in the contentious “forced assimilation” of over one million Tibetan children. The accusation centers around state-run boarding schools accused of erasing Tibet’s distinct cultural and linguistic heritage.
Antony Blinken, the secretary of state of the United States, did not identify the individuals involved, but he urged Beijing to end its “coercive” policies in the culturally distinct far western region.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, delivered a stern message, urging China to halt its “coercive” policies in the Western region. While Blinken did not name the specific individuals implicated, he emphasized the urgency of ending the assimilation efforts that have raised international alarm.
The newly imposed restrictions underscore the US administration’s concern for the younger Tibetan generations. Blinken stated, “These coercive policies seek to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans”
The call to action is aimed at the People’s Republic of China (PRC), with Blinken urging the authorities to discontinue the coercion of Tibetan children into government-controlled boarding schools.
The US further urged the PRC to halt repressive assimilation strategies, not only in Tibet but also across other regions.
International concern over the assimilation efforts intensified when a group of United Nations experts highlighted the distressing nature of the situation.
They described the residential school system as a “mandatory large-scale program intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture.” These experts expressed their worries about the compulsory education curriculum imposed on around 1 million Tibetan children.
This curriculum, conducted entirely in Mandarin Chinese, omits crucial aspects of Tibetan language, history, and culture. Consequently, Tibetan children face the loss of their native language proficiency, hampering communication with their families and eroding their identity.
The timing of the US move is noteworthy, given the ongoing efforts by Washington and Beijing to mend their fractured relationship.
The two superpowers have been at odds on multiple fronts, including trade, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, treatment of the Uighur minority, and the Taiwan situation. Beijing has swiftly rejected the US allegations, dismissing them as “smears” that negatively impact China-US relations.
Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, defended the boarding schools, framing them as a response to local needs. Pengyu emphasized the significance of centralized schooling in ethnic minority areas, suggesting that it addresses the challenges faced by students living in scattered communities.
Late last year, the US designated veteran diplomat Uzra Zeya as the Tibet coordinator, tasked with facilitating “substantive dialogue” between China and the Dalai Lama.
This appointment aligns with the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, signifying the US commitment to advocating for the rights and freedoms of Tibetans.
Historical Context and Ongoing Struggle
China’s control over Tibet traces back to 1950, marked by its claim of “peaceful liberation.” However, tensions escalated as the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India following a failed uprising in 1959.
The ongoing dispute revolves around Beijing’s assertion of control, which the Dalai Lama has labeled a “cultural genocide.”