China has been accused of indulging in what is described as 'cultural genocide' in both Tibet and Xinjiang. In both regions, consisting of ethnic and racial minorities, the communist state is accused of suppressing the local culture and trying to supplant it with the dominant Han identity of core China.
Now, a third province is rumbling with discontentment over similar concerns. Inner Mongolia is a state in China which lies south of Mongolia and has a substantial minority of ethnic Mongolians. These people are restive over a recent policy directive by the Chinese government to increase Chinese-medium education in place of Mongolian-medium.
Already there have been mass protests in the province by parents and teachers. There has even been a casualty, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), due to a man dying by suicide. Due to the rigid censorship imposed by the Chinese government, there isn't much information about the exact magnitude of protests but pictures have emerged on social media which suggests it is a lot.
According to the new policy which was unveiled some time back, textbooks in Chinese would also be used in schools and the medium of instruction would slowly shift to Chinese from Mongolian in three subjects, viz literature and language, history, and politics. People see this as the beginning of Sinicization of the Mongols in the province.
What might be increasing the suspicions of the local people are examples of Tibet and Xinjiang. In the former province, once an independent kingdom, large numbers of Han Chinese, who comprise 91% of the nation's population have been settled. There has been interference with the religion of Tibetans and suppression of their unique societal traditions.
In Xinjiang, severe restrictions have been imposed over the practice of Islam by the ethnically Turkish Uighurs and a large number have been detained in camps for 're-education.'
It is too early to predict if similar things would happen in Inner Mongolia. As of now, the authorities have struck a conciliatory note and the regional education bureau of the state has assured the people that only the three subjects mentioned would see the changes while the teaching of the Mongolian tongue itself will remain just as before.
The last time this province saw a rise in tension was 2011 when two men of Mongolian ethnicity were killed by drivers who were Han. According to RFA, the Chinese government is already taking security measures to contain the protests. One demonstration in front of school was dealt with by riot police.
"SWAT teams and hundreds of riot police poured to the scene, preventing the parents from accessing the school dormitories. Following hours of standoff, parents finally broke through the police barricade and proceeded to pick up their children," Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) in New York revealed in a statement.
The crackdown is very serious. In some places, the local police have been beating people up, beating up ethnic Mongolians, for protesting in the streets. This is oppression of ethnic minorities," a herder of Mongolian ethnicity told RFA.