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US slaps China visa curbs for 'forced assimilation' in Tibet

August 23, 2023

Washington has denounced China's education policies in Tibet, where UN experts say an estimated 1 million children have been separated from their families.

Tibetan stundents sitting in a classroom holding books
The UN says children in Tibet have been sent to Chinese state-run boarding schools, often by forceImage: AP

The United States is to impose visa curbs on Chinese officials suspected of "forced assimilation" of Tibetan children at state-run schools, the US State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

The new restrictions will be applied to present and former Chinese officials responsible for the execution of the education policy in Tibet, a State Department spokesperson said, who held back further details citing the US confidentiality law on visa records.

Despite the resumption of diplomatic dialogue between the two countries, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out China's "coercive" policies that "seek to eliminate Tibet's distinct linguistic, cultural and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans."

"We urge PRC authorities to end the coercion of Tibetan children into government-run boarding schools and to cease repressive assimilation policies," Blinken said in a statement.

In his statement, Blinken cited a UN report that revealed that around 1 million Tibetan children have been sent into boarding schools — often by force.

What did China say?

China responded to the US allegations bitterly, calling them "smears" that "seriously undermine China-US relations."

"As a common international practice, boarding schools in China are set up according to the needs of local students," said Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington.

"Boarding schools have gradually developed into one of the important modes of running schools in China's ethnic minority areas, and the centralized way of running schools effectively solves the problem of ethnic minority students' difficulty in attending school at a distance where the local people live scattered," he said.

The US has on several occasions called out China for human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet. However, China has denied all allegations saying that it safeguards the rights of all ethnic minorities.

mfa/jsi (AFP, Reuters)