As the Chinese regime tightens its methods of oppression to suppress protests against a new policy banning Mongolian language in Inner Mongolian schools, Mongolian nationals and non-nationals around the world have voiced support and started a movement.
Several prominent Mongolian scholars and linguists sent an open letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sept. 7, expressing their distress over the Chinese Communist Party’s policy and claiming that the policy is harmful to the otherwise unified multi-ethnic country of China. Threatening the Mongolian language with the danger of extinction may harm Chinese cultural heritage, as well as the linguistic and literary heritage of humanity, they said.
The letter expressed the Mongolian scholars’ respect for China as a great nation with an ancient culture enriched by ethnic civilizations. But the scholars argued that the new policy may result in a negative impact on Mongolian children in Inner Mongolia, who may lose their fundamental right to study in their mother tongue. It may also tarnish China’s international reputation, they warned.
Some rights groups say the policy to change the language in schools in Inner Mongolia mirrors what Beijing has done in Tibet and Xinjiang—a focus on Sinification of local ethnic communities within the majority Han population.
“We want to raise awareness of this issue and to protest against this shameful policy of the Chinese regime,” Taiwanese Legislator Saidai Tarovecahe of the Democratic Progressive Party told a news conference at a rally supporting the people of Inner Mongolia, held outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Sept. 11.
I urge countries around the world to support Inner Mongolia, and defend Mongolians’ right to their mother tongue, said Taiwanese Legislator Freddy Lim, according to the Taipei Times.
Chinese authorities should be focused on providing genuine bilingual education, not undermining it and persecuting its proponents, said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch in a recent press release. “Reducing mother tongue education flies in the face of China’s constitution, international standards, and expert consensus, and erodes Mongolians’ distinct identity.”
The Mongolian language is an ancient language of Altaic origin, which carries a unique nomadic culture.
At the Institute of International Studies at the University of Washington, Mongolian is one of the close to 20 languages studied representing the world’s largest cultures. Mongolian is a language that has created a unique culture and represents a rich and powerful history, Mongolian journalist and writer Naminchimed Baasan told The Epoch Times.
“Historically, the Great Wall is the border of the Chinese and Mongolian nations, a boundary between settled and nomadic culture. By this means, Southern Mongolians [in modern day Inner Mongolia] now live in their own land. A nation living in its historical territory must have the privilege of preserving its language, cultural heritage,” he said.
After World War II, southern parts of Mongolia were annexed by China, becoming the Inner (Southern) Mongolian Autonomous Region. Since then, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gradually eroded the culture and independence of the region’s ethnic Mongolian population. Beijing has encouraged Han Chinese to relocate to Inner Mongolia, where they now outnumber Mongolians nearly 6 to 1. They have decreased seats in bilingual public schools from 190,000 to 17,000 and allowed Han children to fill them, according to The Diplomat.
Enhbat Togochog, director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), a New York-based exile group, told the magazine Bitterwinter, that “by no means Chinese policies toward Southern Mongolia are accidental.”
“All the policies that the CCP has been implementing in Southern Mongolia, Tibet, and East Turkistan are carefully designed and well planned to achieve their goal, which is to eradicate the Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur identities completely to create a homogenous, worry-free Chinese society,” he said.
Overseas Mongolians have shown solidarity under the movement called #SaveTheMongolianLanguage. Within a week, the number of people who signed a “We the People” petition to the White House reached over 100,000, urging the Trump Administration to pay closer attention to the ongoing “cultural genocide” in Inner Mongolia.
The petition states that the CCP’s new policy is a violation of human rights, world heritage, and its own constitution.