Tightening the noose on Mongolian in Southern Mongolia

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From the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC):

"Massive civil disobedience breaks out, tension rises" (8/29/20)

After the Chinese Central Government’s secret plan to replace Mongolian with Chinese as language of instruction in all schools across Southern Mongolia starting this September in the name of the “Second Type of Bilingual Education” was revealed in documents leaked from local educational authorities, a region-wide civil disobedience resistance movement has broken out in Southern Mongolia.

From kindergarteners to top intellectuals, from middle schoolers to college students, from ordinary herders to rural villagers, and from businessmen even to some government officials, people from all walks of life of Southern Mongolia are standing up in an unprecedented level of solidarity and coordination against the new policy, which many see as a new round of “cultural genocide.”

Despite the government’s push for an early start of the semester, authorities’ intimidation and official propaganda, parents and students across Southern Mongolia are joining the massive school boycott. Schools and classrooms are empty, according to pictures and videos the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center received.

Many parents are proposing homeschooling instead of sending their children to Chinese schools. Some retired teachers and even college students are volunteering to teach all subjects in Mongolian. Others are rallying students, teachers, parents, and ordinary Mongolian herders to stage a synchronous demonstration in major cities across Southern Mongolia.

“I don’t want to become Chinese. I don’t want to learn Chinese,” said a toddler crying on the floor in a short video clip likely taken by her mother.

“I would rather stay home to herd my cattle than go to a Chinese school,” another girl of age 4 or 5 said in a video statement.

Videos went viral showing hundreds of herders and thousands of students in traditional Mongolian clothes gathered in undisclosed separate places, singing “My Mongolia, Steppe Mongolia” to protest the new language policy.

Visit here for protest videos.

More information in a Tweet by Bruce Humes:

Bruce cites "Will education reform wipe out Mongolian language and culture?" by Gegentuul Baioud in Language on the Move (August 30, 2020).

The same sort of language attrition is happening to Cantonese in Hong Kong now too, with more and more schools teaching in Mandarin instead of Cantonese.

"China’s Proposed New Security Law in Hong Kong – An Explainer", China Briefing (5/25/20)

The mainland Chinese, with cultural differences spanning different languages, customs, culture, and politics, have been lauded, feted, and placed as a commercial commodity above those of the ordinary Hong Kong citizens. University places are filled with people from mainlanders. Cantonese is now a secondary language, displacing many Hong Kong citizens aged 40 and over, a large proportion of whom do not speak Mandarin. That is a real social issue when the median age in Hong Kong is 44 and over, and accounts for about 56% of the total population.

The recent imposition of the draconian National Security Law is only exacerbating the dramatic decline of Cantonese usage vis-à-vis Mandarin in Hong Kong.  The disappearance of Cantonese in nearby Guanzhou is already pretty much a fait accompli.

Ditto for Tibetan.

Ditto for Uyghur.

Ditto for Shanghainese

They're all disappearing.


Selected readings


  1. Chas Belov said,

    August 30, 2020 @ 2:26 pm

    How sad. I have had the pleasure and privilege to study Cantonese here in San Francisco, even if I never achieved any reasonable level of fluency, and come to appreciate its musicality and colorfulness. I've heard Shanghainese from time to time, although not for many years, and consider it among the most beautiful-sounding languages in the world. But all languages deserve to exist and be nurtured by their speakers and be subject to the transitions all living languages normally experience.

  2. Dwight Williams said,

    August 30, 2020 @ 2:53 pm

    Correction: all of these languages are being disappeared. Forcibly, by the looks of things.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    August 30, 2020 @ 3:41 pm

    Middle-schooler jumps to death from school building amid escalating protests

    August 30, 2020
    New York

    Visit here for protest videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/ovormongolmin/videos

    As large-scale, region-wide, nonviolent civil disobedience gathers momentum across Southern Mongolia in protest of the Chinese Central Government’s plan to replace Mongolian with Chinese as the only language of instruction, Mongolian students started moving to the forefront of the massive school boycott sweeping the region.

    Hundreds of students in school uniform gathered in front of the Tongliao Mongolian Middle School, one of the largest Mongolian schools in Southern Mongolia, chanting in tears, “Our mother tongue is Mongolian. Until death, we are Mongolian!”

    On the evening of August 30, a Mongolian student from Sheebert Mongolian Middle School of Horchin Left Wing Middle Banner reportedly jumped from the building to his death. Video footage shows an ambulance hurriedly departing the protest scene, leaving angry protesters behind.

    At other schools, students broke through police barricades and left school grounds to join their protesting parents in roaring cheers of “This is who we are: Mongolians!”

    Government officials, educational bureau workers, and even some police of Mongolian ethnicity are refusing to execute orders. Reports from Bairin Right Banner confirmed that almost half of the police force of the Banner are Mongolians who are refusing to arrest protestors or take part in any official propaganda activities.

    Artists, bands, and sport clubs across Southern Mongolia are sending out joint statements to protest the new language policy that was set to take effect September 1, 2020. Colorful signatures with red finger prints and their names and pictures have gone viral via social media.

    Epic storytellers using traditional instruments started calling on all Mongolians to oppose this new policy and save their language and the Mongolian nation as a whole. A storyteller sang in a short video, “Our mother tongue is Mongolian since tens of thousands of years ago; how can we Mongolians accept Chinese as the mother tongue?” and condemned the authorities use of the label “sedition” to crack down on the protest.

    As overseas Southern Mongolians gather in front of Chinese embassies and consulates in the United States, European countries, Japan, and elsewhere, citizens of the independent country of Mongolia are planning to stage a large-scale protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Ulaanbaatar in solidarity with their Mongolian brothers and sisters in Southern Mongolia.

  4. cliff arroyo said,

    August 30, 2020 @ 4:05 pm

    At least Mongolian has another, more durable, home (not a justification for the vile CCP but a tiny consolation).

    The other languages mentioned don't have that luxury….

  5. Andreas Johansson said,

    August 31, 2020 @ 8:52 am

    I take it the use of "Southern Mongolia" rather than "Inner Mongolia" is a political statement in support of autonomy or independence.

    But if I understand the WP page correctly, it's also closer to what the place is called in Mongolian?

  6. Bathrobe said,

    August 31, 2020 @ 5:24 pm

    This paper by Christopher Atwood gives a much more detailed, more dispassionate view of the situation:


  7. John Rohsenow said,

    September 1, 2020 @ 3:37 am

    for those who have access to the New York Times (8/31/20), see:

    Curbs on Mongolian Language Teaching Prompt Large Protests in China

    “Mongolian is our mother language,” the students shouted. Rights activists say the demonstrations are the biggest in the northern region since 2011…..

  8. Alexander Browne said,

    September 1, 2020 @ 6:50 am

    There's also a story from BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-53981100

  9. Victor Mair said,

    September 1, 2020 @ 7:43 am

    Students take to the streets, curfews are imposed, and the former President of Mongolia shows strong support

    August 31, 2020
    New York


  10. Victor Mair said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 10:26 am

    China Clamps Down on Inner Mongolians Protesting New Mandarin-Language Rules

    Region’s ethnic Mongolians fear Beijing’s education policies are phasing out local history and literature, erasing their culture

    By Eva Xiao

    Sept. 3, 2020 7:36 am ET


  11. Victor Mair said,

    September 5, 2020 @ 5:03 am

    LA Times Reporter Expelled for Reporting on Pro-Mother Tongue Protests in China's Inner Mongolia

    The LA Times journalist was escorted out of the city while she was reporting on the recent protests over the forced change in Mongolian language classes

    By Krishnendu Banerjee
    September 4, 2020 18:11 +08


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