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UN rights body calls on China to abolish coercive residential schools in Tibet, slams Communist Party’s assimilation policies

    6 March 2023

    [Geneva] On 6 March, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) [1] strongly criticised the Chinese Government’s coercive residential school system in Tibet and called for it to be immediately abolished [2].

    The findings were released in today’s report of the Committee, after it scrutinised the human rights record of the Chinese government on 15-16 February 2023 [2]. Tibet Advocacy Coalition [3] presented evidence to the Committee, raising in particular evidence that nearly 1 million Tibetan children have been separated from their families and communities and forced into colonial boarding schools [4], and the devastating impacts this is having on the culture, religion, and language of Tibet’s new generation.

    The Committee raised concern about “the large-scale campaign to eradicate Tibetan culture and language, as well as the general undermining of the linguistic identity of ethnic minorities by the assimilation policy… including the coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan children”. 

    The Committee also raised the alarm over the closure of schools providing instruction in the Tibetan language as well as reports that Tibetans “continue to face severe restrictions in the realization of their right to take part in cultural life, including the right to use and teach minority languages, history and culture.” In doing so, the UN experts reiterated the strong concerns of various other UN Committees and human rights bodies [5].

    The Committee made a number of recommendations in relation Tibetans’ right to education, including that China should:

    • Immediately abolish the coerced residential school system imposed on Tibetan children, as well as allowing private Tibetan schools to be established.
    • Ensure that Mandarin is not the only language allowed as the language of instruction.[in Tibetan schools.

    The Committee also stressed that the Chinese authorities should:

    • Take all necessary measures to ensure the full  and  unrestricted  enjoyment by peoples and minorities of their right to fully enjoy their own cultural identity and take part in cultural life, and to ensure the use and practice of their language and culture.

    The Committee also made a series of other strong Tibet-specific recommendations, including in relation to the forced relocation of Tibetan nomads and the destruction of Tibetan religious and cultural sites.

    Responding to the UN Committee’s conclusions regarding China’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Tibet Advocacy Coalition said that the Chinese government must urgently halt its ruthless crackdown against the Tibetan people, end its forced assimilation policies, and meaningfully address its human rights obligations.

    Gloria Montgomery, Coordinator of Tibet Advocacy Coalition, said: 

    “This top UN body has now joined the chorus of voices calling for an urgent overhaul of China’s assimilation policies and for the immediate abolition of the residential schools system in Tibet. The Committee’s findings read like a checklist of human rights violations and shows the extent to which the Chinese authorities continue to blatantly trample on the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people, including those as young as 4-5 years old.”

    Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute, said: 

    “The language of the committee’s findings on China’s residential schools in Tibet leaves no room for interpretation: They are coercive, assimilationist, and systemically violate Tibetans’ fundamental rights. They must be shut down now.”

    Topjor Tsultrim, Communications Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet, said:

    “The UN Committee’s unequivocal condemnation of China’s policies in Tibet clearly demonstrates the epistemological strength of  evidence of civil society reports and the weakness of China’s paltry attempts at adorning their horrendous human rights record with false plaudits. Though China may have brought over 40 suited diplomats to champion Beijing’s deceit-riddled propaganda, the Committee has laid bare the deplorable human rights reality on the ground.”

    Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Advocacy Coalition: +44 7541 362001

    Lhadon Tethong, Tibet Action Institute: +1 917-418-4181

    Topjor Tsultrim, Students for a Free Tibet: +1 610-745-1022

    Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network: +44 7748 158618

    Notes for Editors:

    [1] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its State parties. The Covenant enshrines economic, social and cultural rights such as the rights to adequate food, adequate housing, education, health, social security, water and sanitation, and work. The Committee seeks to develop a constructive dialogue with State parties, determine whether the Covenant’s norms are being applied, and assess how the implementation and enforcement of the Covenant could be improved so all people can enjoy these rights in full.

    [2] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding Observations, 6 March 2023: 

    [3]   Tibet Advocacy Coalition is a project established in 2013 by International Tibet Network, Tibet Justice Center and Students for a Free Tibet to develop coordinated strategies, monitoring tools, and reports to highlight the situation in Tibet at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Coalition core members are Tibet Justice Center, International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibetan Youth Association Europe, Tibet Action Institute and Tibet Initiative Deutschland. 

    [4] Tibet Action Institute, “Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet,” 2021, pg. 24, available at: 

    [5]  Special Procedures Communication, 11 November 2023:; Committee on the Elination of Racial Discrimination, September 2018,