While the ongoing atrocities on the Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese government are well known, the attempts of the Communist regime to Sinicize minority communities are not limited to the Uyghurs alone. The Sinicization project has intensified under the Xi Jinping regime, and its affect is being seen everywhere, from Chinese occupied Mongolia in North to Tibet in the South. The Sinicization project means eradication of all languages, cultures, religions and traditions that are not Han Chinese, all in the name of national unity.
The project is also going on in full swing in Inner Mongolia, the Chinese occupied Mongolian region that borders Mongolia to the north. The region saw large scale protests from locals there last year against a new directive aimed at reducing the use of Mongolian language in the region. The protests had started after the Chinese government had issued an order mandating Mandarin as the language of instruction in schools in place of Mongolian.
The new rule stipulates that three subjects, Chinese language and literature, ethics and law, and history, will be taught only in Mandarin in all schools in Inner Mongolia by 2022. This had triggered massive protests from people in Inner Mongolia, an uncommon sight in China. However, the protests were brutally subdued by the administration as schools were surrounded by armoured vehicles and dozens of protest leaders were arrested.
Chinese officials used both enticement and threats to make people accept the decision. Parents who had refused to send their children were threatened with layoff, fine, and expulsion of the students. Government and public sector employees were warned that they will be suspended or fired if they don’t send their children to schools. While students were also offered cash rewards to convince their peers to return to schools. Authorities had also announced that parents who sent their children to school would receive preferential access to government aid programs.
According to reports, at least 4000 to 5000 ethnic Mongolians were put under police custody last year for protesting against the new language policy. Arrest warrants were sent to the parents, along with printouts of their photographs in the protest venues taken from security cameras. In some places like Tongliao city where the protests were among the fiercest, cars were banned from the roads to prevent the protestors from gathering. Apart from that, social media posts about the protests were promptly deleted by the authorities.
President Xi Jinping openly called for Mongolians in China to switch to Mandarin language. ‘Inner Mongolia should unwaveringly promote the use of national common textbooks to correct “wrong ideas” on culture and nationality’, he had said on Friday. He also said that Inner Mongolians should “learn by heart that the Han ethnicity cannot be separate from ethnic minorities and that ethnic minorities cannot be separated from the Han ethnicity.” The Chinese president had added that the officials should do a good job in popularising the national common language.
Chinese government has defended the decision to impose Mandarin education on everyone, saying it will improve the education and employment opportunities for students from minority ethnic groups. Authorities also claim that Chinese-language books are of higher quality than Mongolian-language books. However, minorities like the Mongolians are not convinced with this, as they fear that it will lead to a gradual demise of their language and culture.
Mongolian is not the only language the Chinese government is trying to replace with Mandarin. The Communist regime has also implemented similar policies in Tibet and Xinjiang in the past. Earl, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region had issued orders saying that Chinese and Tibetan languages were to be given “equal weight,” but now that policy has been changed. While Tibetan language has been retained in schools, Mandarin has been made the primary medium of instruction. A similar policy is also in place in Xinjiang, where Uyghur is being replaced by Mandarin in schools.
In order to implement the policy, the government has drastically reduced the number of teachers teaching in the minority languages. In fact, the government itself says that Mongolians should not complain abut the policy as they are not alone facing this, Tibetans and Uyghurs have already seen the language transition in their respective regions.
Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is known by Southern Mongolia by the local Mongolian people, to retain its association with Mongolia. For much of history, it was part of the greater Mongolia nation. But in 1947, the Peoples Republic of China occupied it, and established it as an autonomous region.