Mongolians in China Face 'Cultural Genocide' as Language, Culture Swept Aside: Group
2021-03-25 -- The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is stepping up policies in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, where protests erupted last year over plans to phase out Mongolian-medium teaching in schools, targeting the region's ethnic Mongolians with TV shows emphasising "ethnic unity," in a move labeled "cultural genocide" by a U.S.-based exile group.
"China's cultural genocide campaign is in full swing in Southern (Inner) Mongolia," the New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in a report on its website on Thursday.
"Ubiquitous in the region are political advertisements highlighting the importance of national unity and ethnic harmony, many of which specifically target Mongolian children," it said.
The group said all state media in the region, including Inner Mongolia Radio and Television (IMRT), had been ordered from Jan. 1 to replace Mongolian content with programs about majority Han Chinese culture, to promote a "strong sense of [a] Chinese [national] common identity."
One of the campaign's official slogans is "Learn Chinese and become a civilized person," the group said.
Inner Mongolia TV has been airing a video clip of an ethnic Mongolian primary-schooler who calls on viewers to "speak Chinese, write Chinese, and become civilized," it said.
In one cartoon, an ethnic Mongolian girl quotes from a speech of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, saying that all ethnic groups in China "belong to a single family with no divisions."
Peking opera has replaced Mongolian traditional art performances in TV programs across the region, while elements of Han Chinese culture are now mixed in with performances that were once a regular part of Mongolian culture, whicle traditional Mongolian songs have been replaced with patriotic anthems lauding the CCP, SMHRIC said.
In Ordos, ethnic Mongolian adults are being similarly targeted by Chinese language-learning campaigns, with new programs teaching Mandarin being broadcast in the region since December 2020.
"The propaganda campaign sweeping across [Inner] Mongolia is widely considered by the Mongolians as another form of Cultural Revolution," SMHRIC said.
Meanwhile, in the region's secondary schools, ethnic Mongolians are being forced to take part in military cadet programs and other propaganda activities, including the singing of "red" songs lauding the CCP and the People's Republic of China.
Language phased out
The phasing out of Mongolian-medium teaching came as the National People's Congress (NPC) ruled that "minority language-medium education is unconstitutional," the People's Daily reported recently.
The ruling apparently replaces a clause in Article 4 of the constitution, which once stated: "All ethnicities have the freedoms and rights to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs."
It has paved the way for a further purge of any historical or cultural material from classrooms linked to traditional Mongolian culture.
The regional government has barred a number of Mongolian history textbooks from classrooms after they were found to "overemphasize the identity of certain ethnic groups while underemphasizing Chinese nationality and common identity," according to a statement posted on the government's website and cited by SMHRIC.
Yang Haiying, an ethnic Mongolian scholar at Shizuoka National University in Japan, said there was nothing remotely radical in the banned textbooks.
"They were just offering cutesy local color," Yang said. "When they say the Chinese nation, they are talking about Han Chinese nationalism."
"All of this talk about allowing Mongolians, Tibetans, and Uyghurs to integrate into the Chinese nation is really about assimilating them," he said. "The Chinese government is now unwilling even to allow them to co-exist."
SMHRIC also cited statements from parents as saying that no mention of Mongolian culture is currently allowed in schools, and even ethnic Mongolian kindergarteners are being taught in Mandarin rather than the Mongolian language, as was previously the case.
"Horrific days are now starting. Our innocent toddlers are forced to learn in Chinese," it cited a statement from one parent as saying. "It is so heart-breaking to look at the helpless eyes of our beloved toddlers who do not understand a single word when their Chinese teachers talk to them in Chinese."
Since Jan. 9, 2021, schools have also been banned from offering extracurricular activities or clubs without prior approval, nor can they refer their students to such activities or clubs.
"Life went on for thousands of years without TV," one Mongolian parent told SMHRIC. "They might take away our culture and language. But they cannot take away our soul and mind. We must overcome this hardship. We believe nothing lasts forever including this difficult time."
Restoring traditional script
Overseas-based ethnic Mongolian Khubis said the move could be linked to plans by the government of the independent Republic of Mongolia to return to the flowing Mongolian script that was taught to Chinese children in elementary schools until recently.
Mongolia had previously written the language using the Cyrillic alphabet, but is now planning to move away from that link to what is a relic of Soviet occupation.
"Mongolia has decided to restore the traditional Mongolian script, so the [Chinese] authorities are more worried about [people in China watching] live broadcasts of cultural programs from Mongolian TV stations and so on," Khubis said.
"Inner Mongolia Television used to invite Mongolian artists to perform at the Spring Festival Gala on [state broadcaster] CCTV, but that sort of cultural exchange will definitely decrease in future," he said.
"The authorities are getting much more cautious about the influence of culture from Mongolia on Inner Mongolia," he said.
Reported by Gao Feng and Gigi Lee for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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