The United States is announcing new visa restrictions on current and former Chinese officials for their involvement in what U.S. and U.N. officials say is the forcible assimilation of more than one million Tibetan children in government-run boarding schools.
In a statement on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said these “coercive policies” seek to “eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans.”
“We urge PRC (People’s Republic of China) authorities to end the coercion of Tibetan children into government-run boarding schools and to cease repressive assimilation policies, both in Tibet and throughout other parts of the PRC,” said Blinken.
Visa restrictions under the authority of Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act means foreign nationals may not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. due to potentially significant adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.
A State Department spokesperson declined to provide names of officials from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who are subject to the visa ban, citing “individual visa records are confidential.”
The spokesperson told VOA today’s announcement on visa restrictions covers current or former PRC and CCP officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labor organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors in the PRC.
China has maintained control over Tibet since 1951, following the takeover through troop deployment in what it said a “peaceful liberation.”
Chinese officials have said their policies in Tibet reflect their desire to create “religious harmony, social harmony, and ethnic harmony.”
Tibetans who live outside of China say the government has been systematically persecuting, imprisoning and killing Tibetans for decades.
“China’s unconscionable separation of Tibetan children from their families cannot be left unchecked. It shows the depths of Beijing’s plan to eliminate the Tibetan way of life and turn Tibetans into loyal followers of the CCP,” said Tencho Gyatso who is President of International Campaign for Tibet.
A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Washington said China “firmly opposes and strongly condemns” the U.S. measures on visa restrictions against Chinese officials.
“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,” said Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Liu Pengyu.
In February, United Nations human rights experts said they were “very disturbed” that in recent years the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as “a mandatory large-scale program intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture,” contrary to international human rights standards.