PRC officials sanctioned over Tibet assimilation policy

The US Department of State has announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to the systematic "forced assimilation" of over a million Tibetan children in state-operated boarding schools. This decision is part of a broader strategy by the Biden administration to address China's treatment of its ethnic minorities, with a particular focus on the Tibetan and Xinjiang Uighur regions.

In a statement Aug. 29, Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed concerns over what he termed "coercive" strategies that erode Tibet's distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions, especially among younger Tibetans:

We call on PRC authorities to halt the compulsory enrollment of Tibetan children into government-controlled boarding schools and to desist from stringent assimilation methods, both within Tibet and in other PRC territories. We stand steadfast in our endeavor to work alongside international allies and partners, drawing attention to these practices and advocating for accountability.

In 2021, a policy pivot in Beijing's approach to educating children from minority peoples became evident with the release of the National Program for Child Development (2021-2030). The earlier policy document on the question emphasized the need to "respect and protect the rights of children of ethnic minorities to be educated in their own language." However, this phrase was omitted in the updated version, with the emphasis instead on "promoting the common national language." This alteration suggests a shift toward a more centralized program of Mandarin-language instruction for ethnic minority students.

The People's Republic of China has 56 recognized ethnic groups, altough the Han Chinese constitute the overwhelming majority.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin firmly objected to the US sanctions, explaining the need for Tibet's boarding schools by pointing to the region's vast landscape and dispersed population. He stressed that students are free to return home during weekends, holidays, and traditional Tibetan festivals. Wang dismissed allegations of "forced assimilation" as baseless.

Amid these tensions, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo prepared to visit Beijing and Shanghai for dialogue with senior PRC officials and US business leaders.

From Jurist, Aug. 27. Used with permission.