Inner Mongolia should push use of Chinese language, Xi says

BEIJING • The authorities in Inner Mongolia must "solve ethnic problems" and push the use of the Chinese language, China's President Xi Jinping has said, months after the region was rocked by protests over a new rule that would reduce the use of the Mongolian language.

The region in northern China borders the independent nation of Mongolia, with which it shares ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties.

Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations and school boycotts last year after an edict mandated that the Chinese language replaces Mongolian as the medium of instruction, part of a nationwide drive to assimilate China's ethnic minorities into the majority Han culture.

Rare mass rallies, the largest Beijing had witnessed for decades, were followed by a crackdown as armoured vehicles surrounded schools and police arrested dozens of protest leaders.

On Friday, Mr Xi doubled down on the integration policies.

Joining discussions with lawmakers from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region during the annual session of China's Parliament, Mr Xi said Inner Mongolia should "unwaveringly promote the use of national common textbooks", to correct "wrong ideas" on culture and nationality, according to a readout of the meeting in state media.

Last year, parents who refused to send their children back to school were threatened with layoffs, fines and students' expulsion. In one district, officials offered cash to students who convinced their peers to return, according to official notices.

The clampdown echoed Beijing's moves in Xinjiang and Tibet, where similar assimilation policies have been implemented.

Mr Xi, referring to the unrest, said on Friday that Inner Mongolia should cherish and uphold its fine tradition of ethnic unity, but he also stressed the need to cement the sense of community for the Chinese nation.

He also said that Inner Mongolians should "learn by heart that the Han ethnicity cannot be separate from ethnic minorities and that ethnic minorities cannot be separated from the Han ethnicity".

Officials should "do a good job in popularising the national common language", he said, calling for the use of state-compiled textbooks.

State broadcaster CCTV showed delegates, some in traditional Mongolian clothing, applauding Mr Xi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 07, 2021, with the headline 'Inner Mongolia should push use of Chinese language, Xi says'. Subscribe