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Protests over Chinese curbs on Mongolian language teaching

Protests over Chinese curbs on Mongolian language teaching

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Beijing [China], September 3 (ANI): Thousands of ethnic Mongolians in China staged demonstrations against a new education policy aimed at reducing the teaching of their language in favour of Mandarin, rights groups said.
The protests, which began last week, pertains to an education policy announced earlier this year, which calls for Mandarin to gradually replace Mongolian as the language of instruction in three subjects in elementary and middle schools around the Inner Mongolia region, The New York Times reported.
Many ethnic Mongolians voiced concerns about the controversial policy, saying their language will die out.
"We Mongolians are a great race as well. If we accept teaching in Chinese, our Mongolian language will really die out," Dagula, a 39-year-old mother of two, said in a telephone interview from her home in Xilinhot, a city in Inner Mongolia.
Images of the protests surfaced on social media, in which a group of students and parents gathered peacefully outside schools, singing and shouting slogans even as authorities looked on. According to one video, a woman was seen flipping through pages of a textbook, protesting against the absence of Mongolian language.
In another video, students in blue and white uniforms said, "Mongolian is our mother language! We are Mongolian until death!"
However, by Monday afternoon, many of the posts were taken down from Chinese social media sites, in an apparent move of censorship.
According to the education policy, Chinese textbooks compiled and approved by the government would be used in classes. In recent years, the government has been making efforts to standardise curriculum in schools. While the new policy states that Mongolian would be still taught to students, the language's role as a medium of instruction would be ultimately done away within several schools, according to The New York Times.
On Monday, the Inner Mongolia regional education bureau issued a statement, seeking to reassure parents that the changes have been limited to only three subjects -- language and literature, politics and history. In other subjects, textbooks, the language of instruction and hours devoted to teaching Mongolian and Korean, another minority language in the region, would remain unchanged, the bureau said.
"The existing bilingual education system has not changed," the bureau added.
For several decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted policies to keep its ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs under political control while granting them autonomy to preserve their own cultures and languages.
But ever since Xi Jinping became the leader in 2012, the government has intensified its efforts to assimilate ethnic minorities into the culture of ethnic Han, who account for over 91 per cent of the population.
Some ethnic minority parents argued that the measures pose a threat to their language and culture.
The recent protests against the policy are the largest in Inner Mongolia since 2011 after killings of two ethnic Mongolians by Han drivers sparked demonstrations across the region, according to activists.
"Our way of life has already been wiped out. So what is left is just Mongolian language -- it is the only symbol left of Mongolian identity. That is why Mongolians are rising up and protesting these policies," said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, an exile group based in New York.
Togochok added that many protestors were beaten up and taken away by the authorities.
Back in 2018, a Tibetan businessman named Tashi Wangchuk, who campaigned to preserve his native language, was handed a five-year prison term following a contentious prosecution based on interviews he gave to The New York Times.
Inner Mongolia, which borders neighbouring Mongolia and is twice the size of California, has seen less of violent ethnic strife which has engulfed Tibet and Xinjiang in the past decades.
However, there has been a growing resentment of Chinese rule in the region over the years owing to environmental damage due to mining boom and economic growth that has disproportionately benefited the ethnic Han and rapid dismantling of Mongolian pastoral tradition. (ANI)

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