Southern Mongolia: Mother Tongue to be Removed from Schools
Starting from 1 September 2020, hundreds of schools across eastern Southern Mongolia, particularly in the Tongliao and Ulaanhad municipalities, will be forced to use Chinese as the language of instruction. Sources confirm that the so-called “bilingual” education enhancement program is being carried out in secret by Bejing, without any official explanation. “The fate of Mongolian language education seems to be sealed. We argued to defend our rights to mother tongue that are guaranteed by the Chinese Constitutions and the Ethnic Minority Autonomy Law,” a Mongolian teacher who remained unidentified said in an audio statement. “This not only is unconstitutional but also is a flagrant violation of the basic human rights of the Mongolian people from a universal human rights perspective.”
Below is an article published by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center
At midnight for the past three days, hundreds of Mongolian teachers across eastern Southern Mongolia, particularly in the Tongliao and Ulaanhad municipalities, were called to urgent closed-door meetings at their respective schools. The school authorities notified them of the Chinese Central Government’s decision to use Chinese as the language of instruction in all elementary and middle schools across Southern Mongolia starting September 1, 2020.
“The fate of Mongolian language education seems to be sealed. We argued to defend our rights to mother tongue that are guaranteed by the Chinese Constitutions and the Ethnic Minority Autonomy Law,” a Mongolian teacher who remained unidentified said in an audio statement. “This not only is unconstitutional but also is a flagrant violation of the basic human rights of the Mongolian people from a universal human rights perspective.”
“We are forced to sign a paper not to discuss anything about this program. All teachers were warned not to raise any questions or opinions of opposition,” another teacher who attended one of the midnight meetings said via WeChat.
This carefully planned new wave of the so-called “bilingual” education enhancement program is being carried out in secret, without any official explanation.
“Yes, there is a secret official document from the Central Government. The school authorities and the personnel from the Bureau of Education showed us the red letterhead of the official document but declined to show us the contents,” a third Mongolian teacher, from the Tongliao area, said in a short phone conversation when asked if there was any official document on the decision and implementation of this new policy.
Mr. Ulzeimurun, Assistant Director of the Heshigten Banner Bureau of Education in eastern Southern Mongolia’s Ulaanhad Municipality, confirmed that the new policy is strictly being implemented under the direct instruction of the Chinese Central Government.
“Mongolians students of elementary schools must start learning Chinese from first grade as opposed to second grade starting this September. In September 2021, subjects like political studies will be taught in Chinese, and in September 2022, subjects like history will be taught in Chinese,” Mr. Ulzeimurun said in a phone interview published on WeChat. “This is not a decision from the Autonomous Region government. It is directly from the Central Government,” he added.
On June 3, 2020, Mr. Ge Weiwei, Assistant Director of the Department of National Minority Education of the Chinese Ministry of Education, visited Tongliao Municipality. During his tour of several Mongolian schools, Ge Weiwei verbally instructed the teachers to replace Mongolian with Chinese as the language of instruction starting this coming semester.
This change has met strong opposition from all walks of Southern Mongolian society. The Mongolians from ordinary herders to prominent intellectuals, from students to professors have all expressed their opposition to the new policy through China’s only available social media outlet, WeChat.
“If our language is wiped out, we as a distinct people will also cease to exist,” Dr. Chimeddorj, Professor at Inner Mongolia University, said in a video statement opposing the new policy.
Among many proposals of urgent actions, some suggest carrying out a large-scale demonstration and school strike across Southern Mongolia. Others are rallying fellow Mongolian parents to not send their children to school and to instead homeschool.
“I will refuse to send my children to school. Because forgetting your own identity and learning another language and culture mean your children have no future,” Mr. Nasanbayar, a Mongolian parent, stated on a WeChat group.
Overseas Mongolians, including Mongolians from Southern Mongolia and the independent country of Mongolia, have been quick to respond to this new round of the cultural genocide campaign.
Dr. Chogt Oghonos, a Southern Mongolian professor at Shizuoka University in Japan and the author of dozens of books including Genocide on the Mongolian Steppe, launched a signature collection drive, calling on people around the world to join the protest against China’s cultural genocide in Southern Mongolia.
“The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government decided to implement a policy to ban Mongolian language education completely starting September 2020. This is a cultural genocide,” Professor Oghonos said in a video statement.
“China’s so-called ‘bilingual education’ is nothing but a project that is an integral part of China’s overarching engineering of assimilating the entire Southern Mongolian populace,” Mr. Tumenulzei Buyanmend, Southern Mongolian dissident writer and the Human Rights Watch Hellmann Hammett Award winner, wrote on his blog.
Mr. Enghebatu Togochog, Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, said, “What we are seeing today is nothing new. In fact, Mongolian language education has almost been eradicated in Southern Mongolia over the past three decades. Rural Mongolian schools have already been wiped out and the number of students taught in Mongolian has declined by 80% since the early 1980s. Our traditional way of life has been completely destroyed and our identity obliterated. Now, if we lose our language, then we have nothing else to lose. In this sense, the recent ‘bilingual education’ is the finishing touch on China’s cultural genocide in Southern Mongolia.”
Leaders of Southern Mongolian organizations that advocate the complete independence of Southern Mongolia have rallied Mongolians to fight for their national freedom.
Mr. Hada, long-term political prisoner and President of the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, said in a written statement to the SMHRIC, “Southern Mongolians have no choice but to fight for the total independence of Southern Mongolia. To become completely free from Chinese colonial occupation, the only and best option is national independence.”
“Even if this round of our resistance moment ends up with failure in the face of China’s brutal crackdown, the moment itself will help lay the firm foundation of our future movement for independence,” Mr. Hada, who is still under house arrest in Hohhot, the capital of Southern Mongolia, said, encouraging fellow Southern Mongolians not to give up their fight.
Mr. Hatgin Dolgion, President of the Inner Mongolia People’s Party, said in a written statement to the SMHRIC, “The highest degree of national freedom is neither autonomy nor federation. It is total political independence. History has taught us a bitter lesson that if we want our national freedom, it must not be a negotiated freedom. It has to be a complete freedom, which is a total independence from China.
Photo: Foreign language is a tool, own language is soul" (SMHRIC - 2020-08-20)