China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region exploded into unrest last month when parents discovered that their children would no longer be taught in their native tongue, under a new "assimilation" program imposed by the Communist Party in ethnic areas. Pictured: Policemen stand guard at the entrance to the Tongliao Mongolian Middle School in Inner Mongolia on September 10, 2020. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping doubled down on his professed policy of ethnic assimilation on September 26 at a two-day party conference on Xinjiang.
In reality, the CCP policy in Xinjiang of "assimilation" resembles more the forced unity of cultural genocide. There is ample evidence that these same repressive policies are being applied in several other Chinese territories where ethnic minorities are prominent. Similar "assimilation" programs presently are being implemented in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China's northeastern province of Jilin.
These "assimilation" projects were kept under wraps until they were abruptly revealed upon the opening of the new school year on September 1. The principal feature of the "assimilation" program in ethnic areas is the eradication of native languages as a medium of instruction. All courses in minority regions are now taught in Mandarin, the principal language of Han Chinese who comprise about 92% of the population.
Inner Mongolia, about twice the size of California and home to approximately 4 million Mongols, exploded into unrest when parents discovered that their children would no longer be taught in their native tongue. Parents forcibly entered schools to remove their children. Protests engulfed the regional capital, Hothot, with about 300,000 students boycotting classes; some of the students joined the demonstrations and security forces arrested thousands of protestors. The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRISC), a New York-based Mongol human rights organization claimed that nine teachers and students committed suicide to protest the new regulations. Many students fled into the remote plains and mountains and were pursued by security search teams. Students who were caught have been separated from parental care. Many supporters of the boycott were fired from their jobs.
Communist bureaucrats in the autonomous province have also been targeting the lifestyle of Mongol herders by limiting the grassland acreage on which they can graze their livestock. CCP officials are attempting to coerce the nomadic Mongols into living in cities to free up traditional grazing grasslands for more lucrative enterprises. One tactic being used by the local government is to award Han Chinese land to establish pig farms, the waste from which poisons water sources that the Mongol herders use for grazing.
In Tibet, students and government workers are prevented from attending any Buddhist religious festivals. The ban was initially enforced during this year's Saga Dawa, the fourth month and holiest period in the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, when festivities at the Grand Temple of Jokhang in Lhasa celebrate the life of the Buddha.
Ethnic Korean citizens of China have also discovered that their children will no longer be taught in their native tongue. There are about two million ethnic Koreans living in China, about half of whom reside in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China's Northeastern Province of Jilin. Unlike the unrest that "assimilation" programs ignited in Inner Mongolia, the Korean Prefecture seems to have remained peaceful. The lack of protest might be explained by the precipitous decline in Korean schools in Jilin since 1990. Many Koreans who live in Jilin might have roots in North Korea, but prefer to be loyal citizens of China.
The nationwide sweep of Xi's program of suppressing the cultural and religious rights of minorities is highlighted by the curtailing of dress codes even in the offshore province of Hainan. This island hosts barely 10,000 Utsul Muslims whose religious practice resembles that of the Cham Muslims of Cambodia and who mostly inhabit two neighborhoods in the province's Sanya region at the southern tip of the island. Security officers are visiting Islamic schools in the district and forcing female students to shed the hijab. Government authorities are informing Muslim residents that China's State Council passed a secret directive in 2018, "Reinforcing and Improving Islam Work in the New Situation" which compels Muslims to Sinicize their dress and transform the architecture of mosques to look more like pagodas by stripping them of any Arabic features.
Chairman Xi has pronounced the success of his ethnic assimilation policies. He specifically cited the Communist Party's assimilation policies in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang by claiming that the programs created social stability and a decline in terrorism. Chinese Communist academically-based economists have praised the economic growth in Xinjiang in the last five years, and echoed Xi's boast that the assimilation projects are bringing the people of the province out of poverty. Ominously, an Australian think tank published a report that had located about 380 detention camps in Xinjiang. The report seems to corroborate sources who claim that approximately one million ethnic Uighur Muslims are housed in these detention facilities.
The accounts of the CCP's ethnic purification campaigns should serve as warning to Chinese Christians that recent sporadic examples of state security officials removing crosses from church steeples might be prologue to a much more intense campaign to suppress Christianity in China. The CCP under Xi's leadership will not tolerate any force or institution that might serve as a rally point for Chinese citizens who might be opposed to the Communist regime, or even be an alternate source of admiration to it.
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.