(Author is a senior journalist, veteran Tibetologist and Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement)
The European colonizers in their colonies like America, Canada and Australia discovered a unique and effective way of overcoming resistance of the Red Indians, Aborigines and other indigenous peoples against the colonial occupiers of their respective countries.Initiated in the middle of the 19th century, the Residential Schools system which aimed at plucking out young children from their familiesand brainwashing them till their adulthood under confines of these schools, remained in action for over a century until they could effectively knock out most elements of the original ‘barbaric’ social, cultural and religious practices from the hearts and souls of the newer generations of these societies. The job of running these schools was effectively implemented by several religious organizations of Europe which included the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United and Presbyterian churches. In today’s Tibet this cultural genocide is being run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through it’s a similar colonial tool called the ‘United Front Work Department’.
In February this year three independent United Nations experts pointed out that nearly one million Tibetan children have been separated from their families and are sent to residential schools run by the CCP. The experts expressed concern over the fact that in these schools these children are forced to learn in Mandarin Chinese in a curriculum which is built around Chinese culture and the CCP’s political propaganda. Later in March this year the United Nations committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights drew international community’s attention towards China’s coercive ‘boarding school system’ in Tibet. The committee underlined and expressed serious concerns over their large-scale campaign to eradicate Tibetan culture and language among the younger generation of today’s Tibet. Last year there have been widespread reports about closure of community run Tibetan schools and arrests of their volunteer organizers. These schools imparted education in Tibetan language to Tibetan children after their school hours in Chinese schools.
It is noteworthy that this campaign of ‘de-Tibetanizing’ the Tibetan people has gained special momentum since President Xi Jinping took over the power in China. Speaking at the 7th Tibet Work Forum, the highest platform for future planning on Tibet, in August 2020 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping had openly declared, “…. Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to the socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context.” Later during his sudden and unannounced visit to Tibet in July 2021also President Xi had called upon the CCP cadres and the Chinese administrators of Tibet to work for establishing Tibetan Buddhism with ‘Chinese Socialist Character’. The ongoing residential school system is the first step of this campaign of President Xi and the initial reports are quite annoying. Various organs of the CCP have started reporting the steps being taken through these and other Chinese schools in Tibet which show how Tibetan children as young as 6 or 8 years are the focus of the communist propaganda.
On April 19 this year the United Front released photos and report of a speech contest among children of 6 to 8 year age group at the Namgyal Sholshang Primary School at Gongkar near Lhasa. According to this report the theme of the speech contest was “Building a Consciousness of the Chinese Nation community” in order to cultivate students’ loyalty to the Communist Party. As the children expressed, by reading from printed texts, their loyalty to China as part of their belief in a better future, the banner in the backdrop read “Study and implement the Spirit of the 20th Party Congress of Chinese Communist Party” and also “Constructing the Consciousness of the Chinese National Community”.
On May 5 this year the United Front Work Department reported of a ‘speech competition’ among Tibetan children from Tsona County near India-Tibet border along Arunachal Pradesh. According to thisreport 33 Tibetan children of 8-16 year age group participated in this competition which was organized by the Tibet Autonomous Region County Committee of the Communist Youth League and the County Comprehensive Cultural Service Centre. The report highlights ‘emotional speeches’ given in ‘vivid language’ by the children.
Last year on November 29 the ‘Tibetan.net’ which is as Tibetan language culture and news website of the CCP reported that all junior middle schools in Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai province had started imparting party ideological and political work education in keeping with the 20th Party Congress agenda “to establish socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era”.
Yet another report of May 9 this years in the ‘Lhasa Evening News’ gave details of a group tour of 200 Tibetan middle school students to the “Memorial Hall of the Emancipation of a million Serfs in Tibet” in Lhasa. The tour was organized by the District Propaganda Department of Daze district. During their tour of the museum the children were helped to raise slogans which expressed gratitude and equated the loyalty to the Communist Party with drinking water. Giving further details of the children’s tour of the museum the report says the children declared that “Tibet has been an inseparable part of the sacred territory of the motherland since ancient times”. The children were made to denounce the rule of Dalai Lama by declaring that “old Tibet was under the rule of feudal serfdom under the banner of the monasteries and the state.”
The concluding comment of this news report of ‘Lhasa Evening News’ aptly reflects the aim of the residential school system in Tibet and the purpose of education in Tibet as a colonial tool of China as it says, “The children were left with the impression that without the CCP there would be no new socialist Tibet, not to mention of the happy life of Tibetan people today.”