Language protest: Thousands detained in Inner Mongolia as crackdown continues


Chinese authorities have detained at least 8,000 ethnic Mongolians in the northern part of Inner Mongolia amid region-wide resistance to plans of phasing out usage of Mongolian language in schools.

The New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in a statement on its website that “an estimated 8,000–10,000 [ethnic]Mongolians have been placed under some form of police custody since late August”.

The rights group said the ruling Chinese Communist Party has carried out mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, house arrests, and “intensive training” across the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.

The crackdown began after parents and students organized a region-wide class boycott and took to the streets in protest at changes to the curriculum, sources in the region and overseas rights activists have said.

Khubis, an ethnic Mongolian activist living in Japan, told RFA that rights lawyer Hu Baolong and activist Yang Jindulima remain in custody.

He said some detainees have refused officially appointed lawyers, in the hope of appointing a defense attorney of their own.

Hu was detained by police in his home city of Tongliao along with at least eight others on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge often used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The authorities have also fired ethnic Mongolian parents, blacklisted and expelled their children, confiscated assets, and denied bank loans to protesting parents, SMHRIC said.

Local governments, party committees, Communist Youth Leagues, state prosecutors, and courts have issued wanted notices across the region for anyone engaging in protest activity, it said.

“The Chinese regime has really shown its weakness, ineffectiveness, and arbitrariness before this massive nonviolent civil disobedience,” SMHRIC group director Enghebatu Togochog said.

“It is laughable that five different authorities including the court and procuratorates, who really have no business in this matter, piled up their rubber stamps on a single document to intimidate Mongolians,” he said.

Among the thousands placed in some form of detention are prominent ethnic Mongolian dissidents and their families, rights activists, writers, lawyers, and leaders of traditional herding communities.

The group said it was concerned about the growing number of references to “intensive training” in official documents during the crackdown, indicating that a “re-education” program is already under way across the region.

It cited a Sept. 14 official document as saying that “parents and guardians who fail to send their children back to school on time will be given legal education training.”

One school issued a notice to parents declaring “war” on organized resistance to the language policy.

“Special task forces from the government, party, law enforcement, and judiciary branches are already stationed in our school,” the notice issued by Chavag No. 2 High School said. “This is a war.”

According to SMHRIC, first-graders in elementary schools are now required to undergo military training similar to that undergone by first-year college and university students across China.

Resistance to the loss of mother-tongue teaching in schools continued, even on China’s Oct. 01 National Day celebration, despite the crackdown, SMHRIC said. (Source: RFA)