CommentariesTop Story

Sinicization of Tibet

4 Min
Sinicization of Tibet

By Sri Krishna*

Around a million children of the Tibetan minority are affected by Chinese government policies aimed at assimilating Tibetan people culturally, religiously and linguistically through a residential school system.

This campaign is akin to Beijing’s policies towards the largest minority ethnic group of Muslim Uighurs in the north-western province   of Xinjiang.

Children are subjected to no more than brain washing in what are known as Tibetan Neidi schools.   These boarding schools are set up in Han dominated cities as a part of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to promote Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism.    And enrolment is increasing rapidly.

Significantly, the Xi regime has established similar Neidis for middle school-aged Uighur students. 

Going by the study of American scholar, Timothy Grose, these schools have failed to promote ethnic unity and Chinese nationalism. 

“Instead, this programme has even strengthened some Uyghur students’ sense of ethnic identity”, he wrote in his highly readable tome “The Xinjiang Class: Education, Integration, and the Uyghurs”, after examining “the extent to which Uyghur students participating in the Xinjiang Class interact with Han students; speak Chinese outside of the classroom; and by considering if these Uyghur students are returning to Xinjiang”.

There is no such study as yet in respect of Tibetan Neidis but the Timothy findings seem to apply to them as well. Tibetan children attending these boarding schools are removed from their families, and Tibetan religious and cultural influences.  And classroom instruction is in Mandarin Chinese.

Older students are allowed to leave the campus only if accompanied by a teacher.

For the Chinese authorities, promotion of Tibetan mother tongue and related issues is an ‘underworld gang crime’.


This neo-cultural invasion has invited the ire of UNCESCR, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It voiced grave concern at China’s “coercive boarding school system,” and the CCP’s attempt “to undertake large-scale erasure of Tibetan identity and culture.”

“We are very disturbed that in recent years the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as a mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards,” UN experts, educationists and human rights campaigners say.

Beijing is unmoved.

Pushing the envelope, the Communist regime now expects Tibetan job seekers to disavow any allegiance to the Dalai Lama. They are also required to expose and criticize the Dalai Lama, and safeguard the unity of the motherland and ethnic unity

Another stipulation says, the Tibetan job seekers must endorse the government’s ethnic policies that call for “support to the (Communist) Party’s leadership, resolute implementation of the Party’s line, opposition to “any splittist (division of Tibet from P.R.C.) tendencies.”  

Reports from Lhasa say the Chinese authorities are forcibly seizing property from Tibetan farmers in Rebgong County (Qinghai Province), with an excuse to construct a hydropower dam. The dam is expected to displace people from some seven villages. It is one of the major initiatives of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and will cost 245 million Yuans.

An order issued on May 23, 2023 by officials of the Langya village, which is roughly an hour’s drive from Rebgong, has warned that compensation would be withheld for those who refuse to give up their land.  

The reservoir region of the project is home to the Tibetan settlements Shu-Ong-Kye, Shu-Ong-Nyi-tha, Langya, Malpa-Jam, Malpa-Kharnang-Kharshi, and Malpa-Chauwo.

People from these areas will have to migrate to urban centres to build their lives anew if Party officials seize their properties. It fits in well with the official policy of rural urbanisation under which there is forcible relocating of Tibetan nomads and farmers to urban areas, and settling Han Chinese in their habitats.

This is a part of China’s policy of imposing Han culture in Tibet and gradually doing away with Tibetan culture and language.  It is similar to what is happening in Xinjiang and the local opposition doesn’t appear to be as strong as in the Uighur belt.

Chinese infrastructure and development projects have led to frequent clashes with Tibetans, who accuse Chinese firms and local officials of improperly confiscating their land and disrupting their lives. It is not a new development and dates back to China’s invasion of Tibet in 1951, resulting in a continuous deterioration of Tibetan lives. Torture, mistreatment and deaths of thousands from Chinese state repression have resulted in repercussions that are felt even now.

Today, relatives of Tibetan protestors are routinely harassed, thrown into prison for “re-education”, denied political and medical rights, and even killed if deemed to be a threat.

The treatment of nomadic Tibetan herders is even worse. More than a million nomads have been forced to leave their grasslands under the garb of protecting the ecology of grasslands.   

The year 2017 witnessed a state-sponsored forced resettlement wherein Tibetan nomads returned to the grasslands without the animals that were their main means of livelihood.

China has criminalized any form of social activism and has walked the extra mile to destroy any form of leadership at the grassroot level under the excuse of eradicating ‘mafia-like’ gangs.

There is a massive database of Tibetans and anyone affiliated with dissidents is deprived of political rights and access to jobs and healthcare.

Cash rewards for spilling the beans on ‘dissidents have made the CCP cadres vigilantes and this is making the lives of remaining Tibetans even more difficult. No surprise, Freedom House ranks Tibet as the worst country to live in the world. 

Arguably, Tibet is one of the issues that China remains sensitive about globally. It runs, therefore, a false narrative through United Front Works Department (UFWD) to confuse and mislead ethnic minorities on their rights.  

Government-sponsored NGOs is a Chinese innovation to establish itself as a paragon of human rights in front of the United Nations.

According to UN sources, there are more than 23 such Chinese NGOs which have falsified data with UNCESCR to defend China’s track record of breaking international treaties and covenants it is party to. The ‘rule of law’ is noticeably absent in China.

The message is clear. The Xi regime is determined to Sinicize all of Tibet and its people.    How the Tibetans put their act together to preserve, and promote the Tibetans is a Sudoku.

  • The writer is a veteran journalist, who worked with the news agency PTI for several years