By Nadir Ali Wani*

SRINAGAR, India (IDN) – China claims, as in a 2019 white paper, “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China”, that it fully protects the freedom of ethnic minorities to use and develop their spoken and written languages and that the state protects by law the legitimate use of spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in the areas of administration and judiciary, press and publishing, radio, film and television, and culture and education.

But the fact is that China continues to force Mandarin as the medium of instruction to replace Uighur, Tibetan and Mongolian languages in the schools in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Tibetan Autonomous Region and in Inner Mongolia.

Chinese State Council has failed to recognise Mongolian as one of the official languages despite the National People’s Congress delegates from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region seeking the State Council’s approval.

Further, the Provincial Education Bureau in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, undertook to replace Mongolian language and introduce Mandarin as the medium of instruction in the schools and universities, starting in September 2020. The teaching of history and political science, which is being done in Mongolian, instead will be done in Mandarin.

This development has escaped the eyes of international media, which is focussed more on similar acts by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.

The “bilingual” education system introduced in Xinjiang is an attempt to transform Xinjiang minority education systems, replacing Uyghur medium of education with Mandarin as the medium of instruction. Entrance exams at all levels of the Xinjiang education system have undergone a change for minority students. If the students take entrance exams in ethnic languages, the bonus points are reduced from 50 to 15 thus giving a disadvantage to those appearing in local languages.

This forces majority of Uyghur students to use the Mandarin language as a medium of education and are forced to attend Han-majority schools. Some local education departments even issued notices for all kindergartens, primary and middle schools to implement educational activities in Mandarin only, with the purpose to use Mandarin in all educational institutions by 2020.

On March 5, 2020, a report by Human Rights Watch exposed Chinese-language schooling in Tibet, calling the trend “an assimilationist policy for minorities that has gained momentum under President ’s leadership”. Since China introduced its “bilingual education” policies in 2010, Tibetans have repeatedly protested through online letters and petitions to prevent cultural cleansing by China.

Earlier, in 2018, the Public Security Bureau declared a crackdown on Tibetan organisations working for the preservation of Tibetan language and environment protection along with traditional Tibetan social organisations like welfare associations;  branding them as ‘illegal organisations’.

Beijing’s consistent effort to assimilate minority regions through demographic change and language imposition has been ongoing for decades. The latest coordinated efforts in Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjiang point to a systematic attempt to demolish the ethnic identities of Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians by systematically obliterating the linguistic-cultural identity. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 October 2020]

* Nadir Ali Wani Ali has an abiding interest in the study of conflicts in South Asia with a particular interest in International politics to do with China, Islam and Kashmir. Currently, he is Director, Center For Peace and Justice (CPJ), a non-profit research group based in Srinagar known for its efforts of youth development in Kashmir. He has no political affiliation.

Photo: Hanization raising discontent among Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Credit: The Kootneeti.

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