Parents protest appointment of Chinese principals and ban of Mongolian language in kindergartens
Mongolian parents from eastern Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Ulaanhad Municipality (“chifeng shi” in Chinese) have launched a series of protests against the educational authorities for appointing Chinese principals to the only two Mongolian kindergartens allowed to teach in Mongolian. Outraged by the newly appointed Chinese principals’ ban of the Mongolian language in the kindergartens, Mongolian parents collected signatures and published open letters via Chinese social media.
In the latest development, local authorities failed to address the Mongolian parents’ demands, sparking further protests and inviting strong criticism of the Chinese authorities’ ethnic policy in Southern Mongolia.
According to the earliest appeal from the Mongolian parents, “the Ulaanhad Municipality Educational Bureau head Mr. Han Lizhong, ignoring relevant laws and regulations, arbitrarily appointed his close associate Ms. Dai Xiaoli, a Chinese teacher from the former Ulaanhad Municipality 6.1 Kindergarten, to Vice Principal of the Ulaanhad Municipality Mongolian Kindergarten.”
“As soon as taking office, Dai Xiaoli, disregarding laws and regulations, banned the teachers from preparing lectures in Mongolian,” the appeal from the Mongolian parents states. “What is even more egregious is that her administrative director, Ms. Lü Xiaoli, publicly ordered the Mongolian teachers not to speak in Mongolian in the office.”
According to an open letter to the Ulaanhad Municipality Party Committee and the Municipal Government, the appointed principal of the Ulaanhad Municipality Xincheng District Mongolian Kindergarten is also Chinese.
“Dai Xiaoli and Lü Xiaoli’s public action of depriving the Mongolians of their right to speak and use their native language is an ethnic discrimination,” the outraged Mongolian parents state in the open letter. “The words and actions of Dai Xiaoli and Lü Xiaoli are nothing but a flagrant demonstration of typical Chinese chauvinism.”
“Depriving us, the legitimate owners of the land, of the right to speak our language and telling us shut our mouths up and speak Chinese is another form of ethno-terrorism. This is a typical hate speech and hate action against humanity that has been practiced by colonial occupiers only in the past,” stated the open letter. It used strong language to liken the Chinese regime in Southern Mongolia as a “colonial occupation.”
Mongolian parents also complained that seats available for Mongolian children in the only existing two Mongolian kindergartens in the entire city of Ulaanhad are very limited, as an increasing number of Chinese children are accepted.
On November 15, 2016, in response to these strong protests and public outcry, the local educational bureau verbally promised to appoint Mongolian principals to the two kindergartens. However, according to complaints from the parents, the educational authorities are not taking any action to keep their promise.
“We are ready to fight for our rights until they are truly honored and respected,” a Mongolian parent named Tuyaa said in a message to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). “We are not asking for any special privilege. What we are asking for is our most basic right, the right to use our native language and the right to teach our language to our children.”
According to the “Way Out of Southern Mongolia,” a newly published work by Mr. Hada—a prominent Southern Mongolian political prisoner who served 19 years in prison—Hohhot, the capital of Southern Mongolia, is home to 210,000 Mongolians. Yet, the number of students who have the opportunity to attend the only two existing Mongolian elementary schools is no more than 3,000. In the entire Autonomous Region, the number of Mongolian students enrolled in Mongolian elementary schools was reduced to 19,000 in 2009 from 110,000 in the early 1980s.