The People’s Republic of China in a written comment transmitted to the 60th UN Commission on Human Rights (dated 10 December 2003) has accused the Commission’s expert on education for making “biased and irresponsible” comment on the status of education in Tibet.

Ms. Katarina Tomasevski, the Special Rapporeur on Education, after making an official mission to China, although confined only to Beijing, from 9 to 20 September 2003, had released her report on the mission in November 2003. In the report Ms. Tomasevski while referring to the situation of education in Tibet had noted: “The Special Rapporteur was dismayed at the illiteracy rate in Tibet, 39.5 per cent, and asked the Ministry of Education (of PRC) whether one reason might be the fact that the literacy test was in Tibetan, while Mandarin is used in political, economic and social life.”

“Ms. Tomasevski visited Beijing only and did’nt go to Tibet. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Special Rapporteur from making biased and irresponsible comment on the education in Tibet,” China’s response said. “The achievements made by China in the elimination of illiteracy have been highly praised by the international community. China has won the UNESCO International Award for Elimination of Illiteracy for several times,” the response went on.

The Special Rapporteur’s report had observed that:”An education that would affirm minority rights necessitates full recognition by the majority of the worth of minority languages and religions in all facets of life. Otherwise, education is seen as assimilationist and, hence, not compatible with China’s human rights obligations.”

The Chinese response said that Beijing was “actively promoting the study, usage and development of Tibetan language…with the development of times and social advancement, the vocabulary and grammar of Tibetan language have enriched and developed. Great achievements have been accomplished in regularising technical terms in Tibetan and harmonising it with information technology.” A claim of 83.4″ of enrollement rate of children of school age in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” was made by China but there were no mention about the education status of Tibetans in other Tibetan areas incorporated into Chinese provinces.

The Special Rapporteur is expected to present her report to the Commission on Human Rights towards the end of this month. Dissatified with Ms. Tomasevski’s report, China has even asked for it to be revised.

During the recent EU-China Human Rights Dialgoue, China reportedly informed the European Union that it will receive three thematic special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights in May, June and July this year. Even before these visits by UN human rights experts are publicly known, human rights organisations are calling on China to fully accept the terms of reference for such visits as set by the experts.