Students in Inner Mongolia protest Chinese language policy

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In this image made from video taken in August 2020, parents confront authorities outside a school in Tongliao in Northwestern China's Inner Mongolia region. Ethnic Mongolians, including students and parents, in Chinas Inner Mongolia region are demonstrating their anger in rare public protests against a new bilingual education policy that they say is endangering the Mongolian language. (AP Photo)

TAIPEI – Ethnic Mongolians, including students and parents, in China’s Inner Mongolia region are demonstrating their anger in rare public protests against a new bilingual education policy that they say is endangering the Mongolian language.

A high school student in the city of Hulunbuir said students rushed out of their school on Tuesday and destroyed a fence before paramilitary police swarmed in and tried to return them to class.

“We senior students were talking and we thought we had to do something,” said the student, Narsu, who like most Mongolians has only one name. “Although this doesn’t directly affect us now, this will have a huge impact on us in the future.”

The policy, announced on Monday ahead of the start of the new school year, requires schools to use new national textbooks in Chinese, replacing Mongolian-language textbooks. Protesters say they were aware of demonstrations and classroom walkouts in Hohhot, the provincial capital, as well as in the cities of Chifeng and Tongliao and Xilin Gol prefecture.

Nuomin, the mother of a kindergarten student in Hulunbuir, said she saw police in places she normally wouldn't and a metal barrier in front of one school. She has kept her child home since Monday.

"Many of us parents will continue to keep our kids at home, until they bring Mongolian back in those classes,” she said.

In 2017, the ruling Communist Party created a committee to overhaul textbooks for the entire country. Revised textbooks have been pushed out over the last few years.

The new policy for Inner Mongolia, a northern province that borders the country of Mongolia, affects schools where Mongolian has been the principal language of instruction.