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China’s Colonial Boarding Schools in Tibet
04/25/2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Lhadon Tethong, Director, Tibet Action Institute
Freya Putt, Director of Strategy, Tibet Action Institute
Dr. Jia Luo, University of Toronto
Tenzin Dorjee, PhD candidate, Columbia University
Andy Nathan, Columbia University
Chinese government policies are forcing three out of every four Tibetan students into a vast network of colonial boarding schools, separating children as young as four from their parents. According to a recent report by Tibet Action Institute, the schools are a cornerstone of Xi Jinping’s campaign to supplant Tibetan identity with a homogenous Chinese identity in order to neutralize potential resistance to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule. The report, “Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet,” finds that an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Tibetan students aged six to 18, as well as an unknown number of four and five-year olds, are in these state-run schools. This panel will discuss how the schools function as sites for remolding children into Chinese nationals loyal to the CCP.
Dr. Gyal Lo was born in Amdo, Tibet (Ch: Gansu). He received his master’s degree from the Tibetan Language and Culture Department at Northwestern University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, China. In 1995, he was appointed Assistant Professor in the same department where he taught for the next decade. While in this position, he did extensive research into the area of Tibetan education and in particular school curriculum development for Tibetans. He later received his master’s and PhD in Educational Sociology from the University of Toronto. He then returned to China where he was appointed a full professor at the Yunnan Normal University Institute for Studies in Education (ISE) from 2017-2020. Dr. Gyal Lo is the author of Social Structuration in Tibetan Society: Education, Society, and Spirituality (Lexington Books, 2021). He was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) Fellowship for his research entitled “Culturally-Relevant Education for Minority and Rural Villages in Asia”.
Tenzin Dorjee (Tendor) is Senior Researcher and Strategist at Tibet Action Institute and the Stephanie G. Neuman Fellow in Comparative Defense Studies at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is the former executive director of Students for a Free Tibet and the author of The Tibetan Nonviolent Struggle: A Strategic and Historical Analysis. His work has been published in The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound, and the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief.
Freya Putt is the Director of Strategy at Tibet Action Institute and the lead author of Tibet Action’s report on China’s colonial boarding school system in Tibet, “Separated from their Families, Hidden From the World.” She has worked in the Tibet movement for more than twenty years, with short breaks to work for other social justice and environmental organizations. She holds a masters degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Freya coordinated the global Tibet movement’s campaign to spotlight Tibet’s occupation and pressure the Chinese leadership through the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Lhadon Tethong is co-founder and director of Tibet Action Institute where she leads a team of technologists and rights advocates in developing open-source technologies, strategies and training programs for Tibetans, and others living under extreme repression. Formerly the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet International (2002-2009), Lhadon led the high-profile global campaign to condemn China’s rule of Tibet in the lead-up to and during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She was awarded the first annual James Lawson Award for Nonviolent Achievement by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in 2011, and accepted the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of Tibet Action Institute in 2018.
This event is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and the Tibet Action Institute.