Katarina Tomasevski, the UN expert on education told the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), that the illiteracy situation in Tibet was “horrendous” and lacking far behind in comparison with the situation in China.

Ms. Tomasevski presented her report to the UN human rights forum this afternoon. She was referring to Tibet in response to the Chinese delegation statement that her findings on Tibet were “groundless” and “irresponsible.”

Ms. Tomasevski was invited to make an official mission to China in September 2003 by the Chinese government. In her report on this mission, which was submitted to the 60th UNCHR, she said: “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.”

On 10 December 2003, the Chinese government in a written response to Ms. Tomasevski’s report said: “Ms. Tomasevski visited Beijing only and didn’t go to Tibet. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Special Rapporteur from making biased and irresponsible comment on the education in Tibet.”

Ms. Tomasevski also remarked that the fact she had not been to Tibet did not prevent her from studying the situation of education in Tibet, particularly after she had worked closely on the matter in depth with the Chinese Ministry of Education. She stressed that she had also based her assessment on Chinese policy and law.

Education in Tibet and China will continue to be paid attention during the UNCHR, with the International Fellowship for Reconciliation hosting a special briefing on the topic on Thursday 1 April. Ms. Tomasevski is expected to relay her findings on China and Tibet in more detail during this NGO briefing.