A Generation in Peril: The Lives of Tibetan Children Under Chinese Rule
VI. Conclusion

The fabric of life for Tibetan children today is woven through with state-sanctioned violence and open hostility to the Tibetan cultural and national identity. From the moment of birth, Tibetan children struggle to survive physically and to develop mentally and socially. The overall pattern of abuses revealed by our research suggests, at best, a reckless indifference to the welfare of Tibetan children. China's intense preoccupation with maintaining political control in Tibet causes it systematically to neglect its international obligation to protect and promote the best interests of Tibetan children. This largely explains why thousands of Tibetans conclude that the risks their children run in making life-threatening journeys into exile pale in comparison to the pervasive threats to their cultural, moral, psychological and physical welfare in Tibet.

The legal standards set forth in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child primarily guided our research. Our findings, however, compel a closer look at the identical articles that introduce the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: 'All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.' Self-determination constitutes the cornerstone of all other human rights. It is not an abstract moral sentiment. It expresses a practical understanding of the fundamental reason that a government either protects - or neglects and abuses - the human rights of those it governs. A government must possess the political will to care for its people. But this only exists where government is based upon an act of self-determination by its people. When one government asserts control over a foreign people, it is unlikely to understand, or to have a genuine interest in, the protection and promotion of that people's rights.

The abuse and neglect shown by the Chinese government toward the welfare of Tibetan children arises largely from its effort to control the Tibetan people. Despite fifty years of Chinese rule and attempts at assimilation, the Tibetan people maintain a very different history, language, culture, religion and set of attitudes from those of the Chinese people. Implementing the specific recommendations set forth below would represent substantial steps toward solving the problems identified by our research. But we found little evidence that the Chinese government possesses the interest or political will to take these steps. The most serious human rights abuses we found are not mistakes. Decisions to detain and torture Tibetan children and to force them to abandon their language and culture to get little more than a primary school education, appear conscious and deliberate, the product of subordinating the best interests of Tibetan children to the state's interest in political control. These abuses are unlikely to cease until the Chinese government returns responsibility for the welfare of Tibetan children to their parents - and to a government based upon an act of self-determination by the Tibetan people.