|December 1, 2017|
My name is Enghebatu Togochog. I represent the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center based in New York.
As you all know Southern Mongolia is always known as “Inner Mongolia” due to the direct translation of the highly Sinocentric term “nei meng gu”.
I was born and raised in Southern Mongolia, and my mother tongue is Mongolian. I received my education in Mongolian from my elementary school to college where I majored in Mongolian language and literature thanks to China’s brief relaxation on the control over Mongolian language education.
From linguistic perspective, Mongolian language belongs to the Altaic Language Family, and is very close to Turkic languages including Uyghur and Turkish as well as Manchu-Tungus languages. Mongolian language has no relationship whatsoever with Chinese language which in fact is a member of Sino-Tibetan language family that is completely different from Altaic Language Family.
Despite these, the Chinese authorities have pushed hard to promote the language assimilation as part of their broader assimilation policies toward Southern Mongolia.
During and after the Chinese Cultural Revolution from the 1960s to 1970s, Mongolian language education was completely banned across Southern Mongolia.
Starting the late 1970s, after the large-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing in Southern Mongolia, the Chinese regime somehow felt some satisfaction and confidence with their colonial policies, and showed some relaxation on the control over Mongolian language education in the region at the least on the surface. Some Mongolian schools were reopened, and Mongolian Language Departments of some of the colleges were allowed to become a separate department from the Chinese language departments.
In fact, the Chinese constitution and other related laws and regulations always state to guarantee the minorities’ right to “use and develop” their respective languages. However, the reality is quite different and is becoming increasingly troublesome in recent decades.
Some studies conducted by long-term dissidents reveal that for 210,000 Mongolian inhabitants of the regional capital, Hohhot, there are only 2 Mongolian elementary schools and the number of children enrolled are fewer than 3,000, making up barely 1 percent of the total Mongolian population of the city.
In the so-called “Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region” alone, number of enrollees at Mongolian elementary schools dropped from 110,000 in 1980 to 19,000 in 2009. This means the Mongolian elementary school enrollment dropped by an alarming rate of 83% in 19 years.
The main reasons for this sharp decline of the Mongolian student enrollment are:
- Chinese government policies including large-scale population transfer, elimination of Mongolian schools at rural level and merger of Mongolian schools to Chinese schools as part of the “ecological migration” and “quick urbanization” programs;
- It is due to the de facto second-class citizen status of the Mongolians in the colonial state. Although the Mongolian language is stated to be one of the official languages in Southern Mongolia, the Chinese Government has made no effort whatsoever to make it reality.
- Mongolian students who studied Mongolian language but are not in fluent in Chinese do not have any opportunity for employment and career opportunity;
- In some cases, Chinese employers including some government agencies clearly stated in their employment requirement that “no candidate educated in Mongolian is considered”;
We have learned some cases in which Mongolian parents of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Ulaanhad municipality published open letters on social media and demonstrated outside government offices to protest the appointment of Chinese principals to the only two kindergartens in the city that provide instruction in the Mongolian language.
The administrations of the two schools restricted the use of the Mongolian language, and at least one of the two schools banned Mongolian teachers from speaking Mongolian in the office.
In addition to these restriction, another tragedy faced by the Southern Mongolians is the computerization of Mongolian written language. The cause of this tragedy is due to the Chinese authorities’ divide and conquer modus operandi to intentionally create confusion and division among Mongolian linguists and eventually to make the Mongolian language computerization system a defunct one.
The traditional Mongolian writing system was adopted from the Uyghurs about a thousand years ago, is the only true vertical alphabetic script in the world.
Today, traditional Mongolian written system is one of the very few written systems that are not fully computerized even though it was given enough slots in Unicode for its alphabets thanks to the fairness of Unicode system. During the Mongolian language Unicode adoption process, Chinese authorities hand-picked some of the pro-regime so-called “linguists” and “scholars” or “experts” to fill up precious Unicode slots allocated to Mongolian written language with nonsense, dead and extinct symbols and letters, making our live written system a dysfunctional one in any standard computer systems.
In this digital era, our written language is not searchable in any major search engines such as Google and Yahoo; our written language cannot go through any mailing systems such as Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook so on; we are unable to use any text editor to write Mongolian directly. Microsoft Office and any other major editors are not available to Mongolian written system; no social media tools including WeChat are available for Mongolian language due to the defunct Unicode system.
Mongolian children and youth are effectively barred from learning their language and communicating with their peers using their mother tongue. Due to the key principles of Unicode that is “stability”, there is no way for us to fix this dysfunctional Mongolian written system in Unicode domain.
In this sense, this Chinese Government’s so-called “project for computerization of Mongolian language in Unicode” is another round of genocide, a linguistic genocide, specifically directed to wipe out the entire Mongolian language system.