China’s ethnic Mongolians protest Mandarin curriculum in schools

Tens of thousands of people in an ethnic Mongolian region of northern China have joined rare protests and school boycotts against a new curriculum they fear will wipe out their minority culture, residents said.

The policy change in Inner Mongolia, revealed in June and enacted on Tuesday, means all ethnic minority schools in the remote region will now be required to teach core subjects – politics, history, and language and literature – in Mandarin rather than Mongolian, echoing similar moves in Tibet and Xinjiang to assimilate local minorities into the dominant Han Chinese population.

“Almost every Mongolian in Inner Mongolia is opposed to the revised curriculum,” a 32-year-old herder from the Xilingol League area surnamed Hu told AFP news agency on Tuesday, warning that Mongolian children were losing fluency in their mother tongue.

“In a few decades, a minority language will be on the verge of extinction.”

Tensions flared across the vast grassland region bordering Mongolia and Russia after the policy was announced by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau last Wednesday.

Mass demonstrations involving parents, students and ordinary citizens have erupted across the region, according to video clips provided by residents to AFP, while thousands of students have boycotted classes.

In some clips, scores of uniformed students can be heard shouting in Mongolian: “I swear to death that I will always learn my mother tongue.”

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