“Vocational Training” centres threaten Tibetan identity and carry risk of forced labour: UN Experts
The United Nations experts on Thursday in their statement expressed concern over allegations that “labour transfer” and “vocational training” programmes in the so called Tibet Autonomous Region are being used as a ploy to undermine Tibetan religious, linguistic and cultural identity, to monitor and politically indoctrinate Tibetans, and warned that such programmes could lead to situations of forced labour.
“Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have reportedly been ‘transferred’ from their traditional rural lives to low-skilled and low-paid employment since 2015, through a programme described as voluntary, but in practice, their participation has reportedly been coerced,” the UN experts said.
The experts found that the labour transfer programme is facilitated by a network of ‘vocational training centres’, which focus less on developing professional skills and more on cultural and political indoctrination in a militarized environment. They also found that Tibetans in the programmes are reportedly restrained from using the Tibetan language and discouraged from expressing their religious identity.
“Tibetans are being drawn away from sustainable livelihoods in which they have traditionally had a comparative advantage, such as wool and dairy production, and into low-paid, low-skilled work in manufacturing and construction,” the experts said.
“Tibetans are transferred directly from training centres to their new workplaces, leaving it unclear whether they are consenting to this new employment. There is no oversight to determine whether working conditions constitute forced labour,” the experts added.
They raised concerns that “vocational training” programmes were designed to promote a non-plural, mono-racial and mono-ethnic nation, in violation of the prohibition of racial discrimination under international human rights law. “The Chinese Government has an obligation to dismantle such discriminatory ideas and practices,” the UN experts stated.
Thinlay Chukki of the Tibet Bureau-Geneva thanked the UN experts for undertaking their mandate and monitoring the situation in Tibet closely. “The experts’ detailed communication and press release on the forced labour including subjecting Tibetans to low-skilled and low-paid work, categorically debunks the Chinese government’s desperate narrative of ‘development in Tibet.’ It is time the international community including the UN and member states question China on ‘development in Tibet’ especially development for whom and development at what cost,” said representative Thinlay.