Beijing wants to impose Mandarin in schools of the autonomous region in lieu of the local Mongolian language. In September, ethnic Mongolian students turned against the authorities. Local officials are blamed for poorly handing the reform, which Beijing wants firmly implemented. Inner Mongolia’s native population fears for their cultural survival.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia has reprimanded local officials for the way they handled school reform, which sparked mass protests last summer.
Shi Taifeng expressed his dissatisfaction on Monday at a meeting in Xilin Gol district, state-controlled Inner Mongolia Daily reported.
In September, ethnic Mongolian students turned against the authorities after the latter began replacing their native language in school curricula with Mandarin.
This led to the most important protests, including calls for boycotts, that Inner Mongolia has seen in decades; high school students staged walkouts whilst many parents pulled their children out of school.
Chinese security forces moved in quickly with armoured vehicles to quell the disturbances in the schools caught up in the protest movement. However, this sparked protests in neighbouring (outer) Mongolia.
On 1 October, scores of protesters gathered in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, demanding the release of fellow Mongolians arrested in China.
In berating his subordinates, Shi Taifeng said that Inner Mongolian authorities had a “major problem this time in our promotion of the use of the national curriculum.” This was “because we have strayed from our ethnic minority works and failed to forge a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation.”
Analysts note that Shi's reaction is not against school reform per se, but a sign of disapproval of the way local Party members carried it out. Perhaps it was also a way to save his job.
On Wednesday, Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, tried to clarify the government’s position on school reform.
In his view, Communist Party officials must “resolutely, comprehensively and unconditionally” implement Beijing’s language policy.
All schools in Inner Mongolia have been ordered to teach language and literature, morality and law, and history in Mandarin using state-compiled textbooks by 2022.
Similar rules have been imposed in Tibet and Xinjiang, where critics say the Party seeks to suppress the cultural traditions of Tibetans and Turkic-speaking Uyghurs.
Now the Mongolian population fears that the government's decision to limit the use of their language in schools will lead to the extinction of their culture.