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Activists slam China's bid to 'wipe out Mongolian culture'

Mandarin-speaking teachers are being recruited for Inner Mongolia’s schools 'with an aim to marginalize ethnic Mongolians'
Mongolians protest against China's plan to introduce Mandarin-only classes in schools in Inner Mongolia, at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, on Sept. 15, 2020.

Mongolians protest against China's plan to introduce Mandarin-only classes in schools in Inner Mongolia, at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, on Sept. 15, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 07, 2024 08:22 AM GMT
Updated: May 07, 2024 08:55 AM GMT

Activists and experts have accused the Chinese government of attempting to wipe out the Mongolian language and culture from Inner Mongolia’s schools by recruiting Mandarin-speaking teachers.

Chinese authorities in the region are offering attractive resettlement packages to encourage fresh graduates who are native Mandarin speakers to settle in the region, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on May 6.

Authorities in Otog Front Banner had reportedly issued an ad looking to recruit 40 high-school teachers of Chinese, math, science, and English as well as teachers of history, geography, and "ideology and politics."

The ad posted on the Gaoxiaojob.com jobs board on April 25 also had requirements for 30 primary school teachers, nine to teach Chinese, with other vacancies available for teachers of math, English, science, and other subjects.

Haas, a Japan-based ethnic Mongolian activist, said the aim was to marginalize ethnic Mongolians, who were trained in their native language to teach in the schools.

"The Chinese Communist Party's policy is not to allow them to stay on [in their posts]," Haas alleged.

"They want to separate them from mainstream society because the authorities fear they will obstruct the policy when it comes to be implemented. So, they're trying to kick all of the ethnic Mongolian teachers out," Haas added.

Similar ads looking for 70 teachers in Ordos City, and 20 teachers in Xilingol Banner, near the border with the independent country of Mongolia were also issued.

The current drive to recruit Mandarin-speaking teachers was initiated following Inner Mongolia Vice Governor Bao Xianhua’s signed opinion piece in the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official mouthpiece, the People's Daily.

He had called for recruiting "a team of teachers with excellent skills, providing a strong guarantee for the building of a strong regional education system, who will write the next chapter of the modernization of Inner Mongolia, Chinese-style,” RFA reported.

Additionally, the recruitment move from the authorities is also part of the phasing out of Mongolian in favor of Mandarin as a medium of instruction for non-language classes including history, math, and science, RFA reported.

The launch of the Mandarin-only policy sparked mass protests by parents and students followed by a region-wide crackdown when it was announced in September 2020.

Tana, an ethnic Mongolian teacher from Xilingol League, said ethnic Mongolian teachers in the region's schools are struggling to deliver classes in their second language.

"It's a bit easier in primary schools, but junior high school teachers who used to teach in Mongolian are suddenly having to teach in Mandarin," Tana said.

Reportedly, the teachers who are unable to make the transition to Mandarin would need to retire early or be reassigned to other roles in the dormitories or the canteen.

Ordos-born Yang Haiying, a professor at Japan's Shizuoka University, pointed out that it was almost impossible for many native Mongolian speakers to suddenly switch to teaching their subjects in Mandarin.

"They are expected to teach chemistry in Chinese. This is tantamount to forced layoffs, because [the government] knows very well that the ethnic Mongolians won't be able to do this,” Yang alleged.

Yang added that the recruitment drive was a “disguised settlement program,” and the ads indicated that many ethnic Mongolians have either left their jobs or are on their way out of the workforce.

According to a Feb. 21, 2024, report by New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights and Information Center (SMHRIC), the Chinese and Mongolian language school merger had forced around 1 million ethnic Mongolian children from rural areas into more than 2,000 boarding schools.

Enghebatu Togochog, head of SMHRIC, alleged in the report that China’s boarding school system was part of a “colonial policy of wiping out the language, culture and identity of the entire Southern Mongolian population as a whole."

The government is running massive training programs covering children and adults alike, Togochog alleged.

During the "training" sessions, ethnic Mongolians are condemned for expressing their ethnic identity, for singing Mongolian songs and wearing Mongolian clothes, as well as for not having enough Han Chinese friends or being nice to Chinese people, Togochog said.

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