Banning Mongolian From Kindergartens Part of China's 'Cultural Genocide': Activists

The latest directive from Beijing seeks to wipe out Mongolian language and culture, activists and commentators say.
By Qiao Long and Chingman
2021.08.11
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Banning Mongolian From Kindergartens Part of China's 'Cultural Genocide': Activists Pupils are shown in a Chinese kindergarten in a file photo.
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Plans by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to extend compulsory Mandarin teaching to preschoolers across the country are part of an ongoing process of "cultural genocide" in the northern region of Inner Mongolia and in other regions of China with specific cultures, commentators told RFA on Wednesday

Starting from the fall semester of 2021, kindergartens in ethnic minority and rural areas that aren't already using Mandarin for childcare activities must begin to do so, according to a recent directive from the ministry of education.

The government is also launching a nationwide "batch training" scheme for kindergarten teachers to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified staff to meet the new demand.

The move is aimed at "enabling pre-school children in ethnic minority and rural areas and rural areas to gradually acquire the ability to communicate at a basic level in Mandarin, and to lay the foundations for the compulsory education phase," the directive said.

Yang Haiying, a professor at Japan's Shizuoka University, said the move is part of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping's plan to extend the CCP's political agenda from cradle to grave.

"I think that this is part of Xi Jinping's cradle-to-grave agenda, one that he is now eager to complete by September," Yang told RFA.

"He has already claimed to have lifted China out of poverty, and now he is trying to unify the Chinese nation culturally, too," he said. "That means linguistic unity, according to his beliefs."

"This approach was successful in Inner Mongolia last year, through the use of comprehensive suppression [of opposing voices]," Yang said.

Plans to end the use of the Mongolian language in schools in China's northern region of Inner Mongolia sparked weeks of class boycotts, street protests, and a region-wide crackdown by riot squads and state security police in the fall of 2020, in a process described by ethnic Mongolians as "cultural genocide."

Koreans, Uyghurs, Tibetans also affected

The government has also introduced similar changes to the national curriculum that will phase out Korean-language teaching from schools in northeast China, which is home to a population of roughly 2.3 million Koreans, the largest population outside of the Korean Peninsula, of whom just under two million are Chinese nationals of Korean ethnicity.

In the northwestern region of Xinjiang, at least one county in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) no longer offers Uyghur language instruction to students, officials told RFA in January 2021, despite being home to a mostly Uyghur population.

Meanwhile, Tibetan parents of affected children have told RFA that keeping young Tibetans away from their culture and language would have severe negative consequences for the future.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses in the monasteries and towns typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest.

The "education for national unity" policy has been traced back to a September 2019 speech by ruling Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, who told a conference on national unity: "The Chinese nation is one big family, and we will build the Chinese dream together."

'Natural switch to Mandarin'

Ethnic Mongolian scholar Khubis said previously Mongolian-medium kindergartens in the capital of China's norther region of Inner Mongolia have already begun to allow Han Chinese children to enroll.

"There were still a few Mongolian-medium schools and kindergartens left in Hohhot, because [previous] leaders supported Mongolian kindergartens when they were in power," Khubis said.

"But when kindergartens open in September, local Han children will all be allowed to enroll in Mongolian-medium kindergartens," he said. "With Han Chinese children coming in, the language used will naturally switch to Mandarin."

An employee who answered the phone at a Mongolian-medium kindergarten in Hohhot on Wednesday confirmed that no Mongolian would be used there from Sept. 1.

"Ah, yes, no, we won't use Mongolian; there'll be no Mongolian," the employee said.

Xi Haiming, chairman of the Southern Mongolian parliament in exile, who currently lives in Germany, said the move is in clear violation of China’s Constitution and a law on ethnic autonomous regions.

"According to the Chinese Constitution, all ethnic groups have the right and freedom to preserve and develop their own languages," Xi told RFA. "The Ethnic Autonomous Region Law also guarantees those rights."

"Mongolians learning Mongolian won't automatically give rise to separatism, but is rather part of their feeling for their own culture and traditions," he said.

'Cultural genocide'

Enghebatu Togochog of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), said that the CCP is implementing "wholesale cultural genocide" in Inner Mongolia.

"The goal of this round of genocide is clear: wipe out Mongolian language, culture and identity from [Inner] Mongolia entirely to create a homogeneous Chinese society that is free from any ethnic problem," he said in comments reported on the SMHRIC website.

"[It] started in Southern Mongolia last September ... and replaced Mongolian with Chinese as the medium of instruction across the region," he said.

He said more than 300,000 Mongolian students took to the streets, while millions of parents, teachers, and students carried out a region-wide school boycott.

An estimated 8,000-10,000 protesters have since been arrested for their role in the protests, he said.

Enghebatu Togochog called for an international boycott of the 2022 Olympics in China.

"Allowing China to host the Olympics is just like allowing Nazi Germany to host another Olympics," he said. "China is committing multiple genocides in front the eyes of the international community [and] cracking down on any dissent, any peaceful protest."

"China is trying to dominate the world culturally, economically, militarily, and politically through infiltration, extortion, and other criminal activities," he said. "It is threat to humanity, it is existential threat to the core value of democracy, human rights, and human dignity."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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