Nine people have died and thousands were detained as Chinese authorities launched a region-wide crackdown on ethnic Mongolians protesting an end to Mongolian-medium education, a rights group reported on Monday, September 14.
An estimated 300,000 students have boycotted class and joined street protests across Inner Mongolia since the end of August.
They are up in arms against a new language policy for schools which will see Chinese used as the language of instruction in schools that once offered Mongolian-medium education.
“As the nationwide school boycott enters its third week … the Chinese government is turning the entire region into a police state,” the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in a statement on its website.
“At least nine Mongolians have lost their lives, and thousands have been arrested in protest of China’s latest cultural genocide campaign,” it said.
The authorities claim the move is towards “bilingual education,” but ethnic Mongolians say it is a form of cultural genocide aimed at cutting off their remaining connection to their culture and heritage.
Japan-based ethnic Mongolian Khubis said police in Inner Mongolia’s Chifeng city and Heshigten Banner had arrested at least 12 members of herding communities, while armed police had come looking for school-age children in those areas.
“The police have been forcing their way into people’s homes and snatching away their children [to go to school],” Khubis said.
According to SMHRIC, between 4,000 and 5,000 ethnic Mongolians — who include prominent dissidents, writers, herders, protesting parents, and online activists — have been subjected to “arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial detention, forced disappearance, and house arrest” since the crackdown began.
“Massive student hunts are sweeping the region. Even in the remotest rural communities, police presence is so heavy,” SMHRIC quoted an audio statement from a Mongolian parent as saying. “The whole [region]is a police state now.”
Another parent said in an audio message that they were reminded of the persecution of ethnic Mongolians during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
“This is nothing but a second round of ethnic cleansing,” the statement said.
Police, ruling Chinese Communist Party committees, education bureaus, departments of discipline and inspection, courts, procuratorates, and schools are in crisis mode, with fresh directives and orders issued daily, SMHRIC said.
“The entire Mongolian population has been notified of arrests and detention of disobedient individuals and sackings of those who refuse to implement orders,” the group said.
It cited an official statement from the Ar-Horchin Banner People’s Court, state prosecutor, police department, and education and justice bureaus as saying that parents who do not comply will be sent for “legal education,” and possibly fined or prosecuted.
Video clips and other communications showed students fleeing schools to join the boycott, while others sat in classrooms weeping and refusing to cooperate with attempts to teach them, SMHRIC said.
The group said attempts by the Chinese government to play down the extent of the changes to the curriculum should be ignored, adding that the crackdown is a “cultural genocide.”
The group said ethnic Mongolians in China face a total ban on the use of the Mongolian language in schools.
“Reports confirm that the Mongolian language is completely banned in schools,” it said in a statement. “Students are banned from speaking Mongolian during any school activities.” (Source: RFA)