Ethnic Mongolians protest against China’s new language policy in Tokyo

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The Mongolian community in Tokyo gathered on September 12 to stage a demonstration against the language policy implemented by the Chinese government that aimed at replacing Mongolian with Mandarin at the educational institutions in inner Mongolia. Around 1000 people participated in the protest amidst the Covid 19 pandemic wearing masks. Students in Mongolian-medium schools had been taught in their mother tongue all this while, alongside a daily hour of Chinese language instruction starting from the third grade but now starting this September, under the new education policy, authorities expect Mandarin Chinese to replace Mongolian as the medium of instruction for three subjects in elementary and middle schools for minority groups across the inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Mongolian students and parents in northern China have also participated in mass boycotts. According to the local media reports, parents are also refusing to send their children to school over the new curriculum fearing that this move will lead to the eventual death of the Mongolian language. The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region government has reasoned that since the Mongolian language, script and spoken, is more closely aligned with Central Asian and West Asian languages, it should be replaced with the Chinese language. Activists say that under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party have taken intense steps to promote Mandarin.

This recent language policy by the Chinese government has been deemed to be an effort to eradicate the ethnic minorities in the facade of achieving national unity through cultural identity. Most of the Tibetan and Uygur minority language schools have been eliminated since 2017 and replaced by the Mandarin Chinese instruction. According to the United Nations, China has 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, and over 100 of their languages are on the verge of being extinct.

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