Dharamshala - The Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons recently released a report entitled "The human rights situation of Tibetans and the Chinese residential boarding School and preschool system" and Canadian Parliamentarians urged Canadian government to sanction Chinese authorities, who is responbilities for the oppressive boarding school system in Tibet and violations of Human rights of Tibetans.
Sameer Zuberi, Chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons presented the report on Tibet entitled, "The human rights situation of Tibetans and the Chinese residential boarding School and preschool system" during the 1st session of 44th Parliament, on June 16, 2023. The report addresses the human rights violations currently faced by Tibetans and Chinese colonial boarding schools and pre-schools for Tibetan children.
Eight witnesses, including Tibetan rights activists, academics and human rights specialists, testified before the sub-committee. The witnesses reported how the PRC is taking control of Tibet through Sinicization measures that target religion, language and the traditional nomadic way of life in Tibet. Language is targeted by the education system in Tibet, where the Chinese administration forces large numbers of Tibetan children, from pre-school age, into government-run boarding schools. Local Tibetan schools are closed with the aim of excluding the Tibetan curriculum and, consequently, the Tibetan language. Boarding schools have been operating in Tibet since 1979, but expanded under Chinese President Xi Jinping to include pre-school children, according to witnesses. The report states that around 800,000 Tibetan children aged between 6 and 18 are enrolled in boarding schools, representing 78% of all Tibetan children.
Nearly a million young Tibetans have reportedly been separated from their families and forced to study Mandarin Chinese at school. As a result, young Tibetans are losing their opportunity to interact with their parents and grandparents, and to learn about their Tibetan customs, history and identity. The students' families and their own spirits are seriously affected. The report states that "the harm that the schools are causing to Tibetan children, families, and communities must be condemned by all means".
Tibetan witness Tenzin Dorjee predicts that, within a generation, "the majority of the Tibetan population will be speaking to each other in Chinese, not Tibetan". Lhadon Tethong declared that the policy of family separation is an intentional effort by the Chinese government "to isolate children from their families in order to erase their Tibetan identity and replace it with a Chinese one". The schools do not teach Tibetan history and force children to sing the Chinese national song every time they enter.
According to the report, Canada should "openly support all initiatives to keep the issue of Tibet residential schools and other violations of minority rights at the forefront of discussions at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international fora," and issue a statement echoing the questions raised by UN experts about boarding schools in a letter to the Chinese government in November 2022.
Based on the study of the report, Canada is "particularly well-positioned to lead" on the subject of Tibetan residential schools due to "the major harms caused by its own twentieth-century system of residential schools designed to assimilate Indigenous populations into the majority Euro-Canadian population." As a result of these historical violations, the Chinese government "attempted to discredit Canada's position on human rights issues," the report claims. The contrast was noted by Bob Rae, Canada's ambassador to the UN, who said, "We (Canada) have established commissions of accountability. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have been constituted. Where are China's truth and reconciliation commissions?
In addition, the report addresses China's involvement in the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, recognizing him as a victim of enforced disappearance and related human rights violations. Following the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, the PRC appointed another Panchen Lama, whom Tibetan witness Abbot Tenzin Rabgyal described as "a political tool of the Chinese government".
The report makes 18 recommendations to the Canadian government based on the testimonies. One of the most important is to "sanction the Chinese officials responsible for implementing the boarding school and preschool system in Tibet, including the provincial party secretary in Tibet and the authorities responsible for the design and implementation of the boarding school system". The report also calls on Canada to press China for information on the whereabouts and health of the 11th Panchen Lama. China abducted the Tibetan Buddhist leader in 1995, when he was just 6 years old.
The report also recommends that Canada appoint a Special Coordinator for Tibet, who would be on the front line for all individuals and groups facing harassment, intimidation and state interference. It also suggests that Canada begin to work towards the resumption of negotiations between the Chinese authorities and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The report states that Canada should also do more to prevent China's transnational repression of Tibetans in exile. It should welcome Tibetan refugees and support the preservation of the Tibetan language outside Tibet. In addition, Canada should increase the number of places in the "human rights defenders" program of its government aid to refugees, in order to welcome a greater number of applicants and their families.
The report also proposes that the Canadian government fund projects related to Tibetan language teaching, such as support for Tibetan language learning libraries or training for Tibetan language teachers.
In conclusion, the report states, "Canada has a responsibility to respond to the urgent needs of the Tibetan people and can play a leading role internationally to help end this system.''