Tibetan children wearing religious robes


There can be no normal childhood in an abnormal society.

The children of Tibet face all the challenges of life under occupation and in many cases are full participants in the struggle to resist it, including the ongoing self-immolation protests.

That means they are also victims of the systematic and ever-present abuse of human rights in Tibet.

“The police went to the house of a Tibetan community leader to arrest him. When they found he was not home they dragged his son out of the house, into the courtyard and held a gun in his mouth. The boy was only about 12 or 13. He looked so frightened.”
– Eyewitness account, Drango County, January 2012

No Tibetan Education For Tibetan Children

“I cannot read and write my own language. It makes me feel ashamed and always sad to face that fact.”

– Schoolgirl from Tawu

Tibetan children are increasingly being deprived of a full education in their mother tongue.

The Chinese government’s policy of “bilingual education” in reality means that the Tibetan language is being replaced in schools by Chinese. Under this policy, every subject is taught in Chinese except for some classes studying Tibetan as a language.

Tibetan monks, teachers and university students have long held Tibetan language classes and workshops in their communities to ensure that children are able to access education in their native language. However, these projects are also being shut down.

  • In 2014, respected local leader and advocate for the Tibetan language, Khenpo Kartse, was sentenced to two and a half years in jail.
  • In 2016, Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk was detained and ultimately sentenced to five years in prison after speaking out about the closure of local Tibetan languages classes, leaving his nieces with nowhere to learn Tibetan.
  • In February 2022, Choedon, a university student, was arrested after using her holidays to give Tibetan classes in her village.

Demolitions, Closures And Colonial Boarding Schools

Ringchen Kyi

Tibetan teacher Ringchen Kyi, who was arrested in August 2021

These policies have hardened in recent years as the Chinese government has become more blatant in its attempts to eliminate Tibetans’ identity at a young age.

Recent years have seen monasteries forbidden from providing Tibetan education to children in the surrounding communities. There have also been several high-profile schools closed down.

In July 2021, authorities forced Sengdruk Taktse Middle School, a school that taught in the Tibetan language, to close. The following month, one of its longest-serving teachers, Rinchen Kyi, was arrested and has since disappeared. In October that year, authorities in Drago County, eastern Tibet, forced locals to demolish the Gaden Rabten Namgyaling School. The destruction of the school, built on the ground of the local monastery, left at least 100 young students without vital Tibetan education.

As these avenues are closed off, the Chinese government is pushing Tibetan children into a vast network of residential boarding schools. Research by the Tibet Action Institute has found that the Chinese government had separated at least 800,000-900,000 Tibetan children aged 6-18 from their families and subjected them to indoctrination.

Youth No Protection From Repression

11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Children often take part in protests in Tibet and have also been targeted with heavy punishment for speaking out. The Chinese authorities have repeatedly shown that they have no reservations about detaining children.

  • In June 2012, teenager Jigme Dolma was severely beaten after calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet. She was later sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘splitting China’.
  • After 16-year-old Tsomo (name changed) and her uncle shouted “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Freedom for Tibet” in a town centre in July 2008, she was detained for more than a year and tortured, which included having a gun held to her forehead in a mock execution.
  • In March 2008, 16-year-old school girl Lhundup Tso was among 13 people shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest. The UN demanded a full inquiry by Chinese authorities into the shootings: it has never taken place.

Most notoriously, in May 1995, China abducted six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima from his home. He had been recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, one of the highest-ranking spiritual leaders in Tibet. Three decades later, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Further reading

Further reading

Where is the Panchen Lama?

On 25 April 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima turned six years old. Barely a month later, he became the world’s youngest political prisoner. He has been missing for 27 years.

Further reading

Chinese occupation of Tibet

Every aspect of Tibetan life is under siege. Dissent, protest, or even wishing the Dalai Lama a happy birthday or having a Tibetan flag on your phone will turn you into a criminal. Tibetans have to censor themselves to avoid imprisonment.

Further reading

China’s lies

China is very aware of the strength of the movement for Tibet’s freedom. Inside Tibet, it uses repression and violence to try to silence that movement. Outside of China, it uses propaganda.

We are Free Tibet, and we stand with Tibetans around the world. For their homeland, for their future and against China’s brutal occupation.