Protests break out in Inner Mongolia over forced Mandarin-only classes

Government move seen by activists as amounting to ‘cultural genocide’

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(Protest video screenshot)

(Protest video screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Thousands have taken to the streets in Inner Mongolia over Beijing’s plans to substitute Mongolian with Chinese as the language for instruction in schools, with a student reportedly jumping to his death in protest.

The policy, announced in June, will see pupils in the Chinese autonomous region begin to attend classes in Mandarin in the first year of elementary school starting Tuesday (Sept. 1), rather than the third year as it has been, wrote Liberty Times. Textbooks for subjects such as law and history will also be switched to ones written in Chinese.

The authorities have said Mongolian language classes will remain and that the measure was implemented to ensure high-standards in the curriculum. It is seen as a step in alignment with Xi Jinping’s initiative to promote a shared language as part of a common identity, wrote the Guardian.

The move has been described by activists as a decades-long attempt by Beijing to drive a “cultural genocide,” the Guardian quoted Enghebatu Togochog, director of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), as saying.

A middle-school Mongolian student reportedly jumped from a school building to his death at a rally on Aug. 30. School boycotts and protests have swept the region, with some chanting, “This is who we are: Mongolians!” according to SMHRIC. Curfews have been imposed for Lubei City starting Aug. 31 local time.

The measure harks back to similar moves taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) targeting Xinjiang and Tibet between 2017-2018. Uighur and Tibetan languages have been restricted in the regions as part of the efforts to assimilate ethnic minority groups.