According to a BBC report, ethnic Mongolians, mainly students and parents, in China’s Inner Mongolia region are holding multiple public protests against a new bilingual education policy that would jeopardize the Mongolian language.

The policy was confirmed on Monday, Aug. 31, just one day before the start of the new school year, and requires schools to use new national textbooks in Chinese, replacing Mongolian language textbooks. 

Many ethnic Mongolians are seeing the changes as a threat to their historical cultural identity. As a result, large crowds of students and parents were seen protesting the new regulations in demonstrations that broke out in several cities.

“Our language is Mongolian and our homeland is Mongolia forever! “

“Our language is Mongolian and our homeland is Mongolia forever! Our mother tongue is Mongolian, and we will die for our mother tongue!” the students shouted at a recent protest, the BBC reported.

In 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set up a committee to review school textbooks throughout the country. The textbooks they selected at the time were eliminated in recent years.

The new policy for Inner Mongolia, a northern province bordering the country of Mongolia, affects schools where Mongolian has historically been the main language of instruction.

Similar changes have occurred in other ethnic areas within the Chinese territory. The most obvious cases are Tibet and Xinjiang, where the main language of instruction in schools has become Mandarin, with the native language taking a back seat.

The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, a New York-based activist group, reported that CCP officials warned Mongolian citizens not to speak out on social networks about the recent conflicts. Even publications on the subject on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, have been removed. 

Concerns about the new regulations remain high and most parents are keeping their children at home waiting for some favorable response to their concerns.

Staff at a school in Naiman County, China, told the BBC that only about 40 students had signed up for the next semester instead of the usual 1,000. Later, some changed their minds and only about 10 were enrolled.

According to the BBC, which in 2014 had already published a video documentary on how ethnic Mongolians live today, what is happening now is an unusual display of widespread popular rejection in a very peaceful region of China with a majority of peasants.

There, a 32-year-old pastor from the Xilingol League, as reported by the BBC, said he was concerned that children would lose fluency in their mother tongue. “Almost all Mongolians in Inner Mongolia oppose the revised curriculum,” the pastor said.

Speaking to the BBC from Germany, Temtsiltu Shobtsood, the chairman of the Inner Mongolian People’s Party, an exiled group, denounced the CCP for concentrating efforts on suppressing the language and the Mongolian culture.

“The whole world is talking about human rights, but we are not visible enough,” Shobtsood said, adding that the imposition of Mandarin and modern Chinese culture on minorities in Inner Mongolia is a kind of “cultural genocide.”