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The Chinese government should reverse its new policy of increasingly replacing Mongolian with Mandarin Chinese as the language of instruction in Inner Mongolia schools, Human Rights Watch said today. Chinese authorities should also stop harassing those who have peacefully protested in support of Mongolian language education.

The US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center reported on August 20, 2020, that education authorities had informed teachers that all elementary and middle schools in Inner Mongolia had to use Mandarin Chinese as the language of instruction for three subjects starting this new school year. Inner Mongolia is a region in northern China with 17 percent ethnic minority Mongols, who speak Mongolian as their mother tongue.

“As in Xinjiang and Tibet, the Chinese authorities appear to be putting political imperatives ahead of educational ones,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “While Mongolian students are being told they’ll still have some classes in Mongolian, their concerns about it being phased out are entirely warranted.”

Students in Mongolian-medium schools had previously been taught in their mother tongue, alongside a daily hour of Chinese language instruction starting from the third grade. Starting this September, the education authorities will expect schools to teach three subjects in Mandarin Chinese: language and literature, “morality and law (politics),” and history. Authorities may be giving priority to these three subjects because they reflect the government’s emphasis on political and ideological education. Other classes, namely mathematics, sciences, art, music, and physical education, as well as Mongolian language, will still be taught in Mongolian.

In an August 31 statement, authorities in Mongolia said that the changes, following similar steps in Xinjiang in 2017 and Tibet 2018, also apply to ethnic minority schools in Gansu, Sichuan, and six other provinces and regions. The statement said that “Textbooks reflect the will of the [Chinese Communist] Party and the state … [and] directly concern the implementation of the Party’s educational guiding principle and the realization of educational goals.”

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