Residents of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the north of China have been protesting for days against the measures from Beijing that prescribe that three important subjects at secondary school must now be taught in Mandarin. Residents are afraid that these are the first steps towards banning the Mongolian language and culture.
“We are defending Mongolian culture,” the Mongolian demonstrators shouted during the protests at a high school in the town of Naiman. For several days now, parents have been keeping their children at home from school, and pupils are taking to the streets at various places in the region to make themselves heard, says CCeit correspondent Sjoerd den Daas. “Parents and pupils are angry that the Mongolian language in schools suddenly has to make way for Chinese
At the beginning of the new school year, the Mongolian textbooks were replaced by new Chinese textbooks. The explanation given by the Chinese government is that the quality of the Chinese textbooks is higher than the obsolete textbooks in Mongolian.
Morality and law in Chinese
Subjects such as language and culture, morality and law and history will be taught in Mandarin as of this year. “Whereas until now Chinese was at most a minor, a second language,” says Den Daas. “For the authorities, having a common language is an important way to keep the country together.” Especially outside the big cities, there’s a strong attachment to the preservation of Mongolian.
The strategy shows similarities with the way Beijing wanted to make the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang Chinezer. In 2000, the Chinese government’s policy on Chinese minorities overturned after disturbances, says Den Daas. “Before that time, the regions could, to a certain extent, go their own way. But the wish from Beijing became to assimilate minorities as much as possible, starting with language. Han Chinese were encouraged for a long time to settle in Inner Mongolia, similar to Tibet and Xinjiang.”
How big the protests so far are, is hard to say. That they are widespread throughout the region, is certain. According to Den Daas, the question is whether the Chinese government will quickly and severely suppress these protests, as happened earlier in Xinjiang and Tibet. “At first glance, the scale of this protest is larger than previous protests in the region, including in 2011. but reliable information from the region is scarce, the tension is enormous. People we’ve spoken to so far are reluctant to talk to foreign media. It remains to be seen whether this will gain momentum and the concerns of the Mongolian community will be heard, or whether the authorities will continue on the current path of repression.”