The decree will come into effect at the beginning of the new school year. Schools will have to use Mandarin, according to the principle of bilingual education. The government announces severe punishment for anyone who "plays politics, pretends to implement, or acts one way and does another”. Uyghurs slam the plan to wipe out their mother tongue and increase their assimilation into Han Chinese culture.
Hotan (AsiaNews/RFA) – Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, home to ethnic Uyghur Muslims, have issued a directive completely banning the use of the Uyghur language at all education levels up to and including secondary school, this according to official sources. Those found in violation of the order will face “severe punishment.”
The new decree marks one of the harshest measures yet from Beijing aimed at assimilating ethnic Uyghurs, who complain of pervasive ethnic discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression by China’s ruling Communist Party in Xinjiang.
In late June, the Education Department in Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture issued a directive outlawing the use of Uyghur at schools in favour of Mandarin Chinese “in order to strengthen elementary and middle/high school bilingual education.”
Under the directive, schools must “insist on fully popularizing the national common language and writing system according to law, and add the education of ethnic language under the bilingual education basic principle.”
Beginning in the fall semester this year, Mandarin Chinese “must be resolutely and fully implemented” for the three years of preschool, and “promoted” from the first years of elementary and middle school “in order to realize the full coverage of the common language and writing system education.”
The directive instructs schools to “resolutely correct the flawed method of providing Uyghur language training to Chinese language teachers” and “prohibit the use of Uyghur language, writing, signs and pictures in the educational system and on campuses.”
Additionally, the order bans the use of Uyghur language in “collective activities, public activities and management work of the education system.”
Any school or individual that fails to enforce the new policy, that “plays politics, pretends to implement, or acts one way and does another,” will be designated “two-faced” and “severely punished,” it said, using a term regularly applied by the government to Uyghurs who do not willingly follow such directives.
While Beijing has attempted to implement a “bilingual” system in Xinjiang’s schools over the past decade, Uyghurs say the system is monolingual and reject it as part of a bid to eliminate their mother tongue and increase their assimilation into Han Chinese culture.
Xinjiang is home to about 9 million Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, who chafe at Communist rule and the invasion of ethnic Han Chinese encouraged to move to the region by the government to turn them into a minority.
Despite rejecting allegations of religious oppression, Beijing has imposed many limits on religious practice in the region, justifying them as part of its fight against Islamic terrorism.
The region's authorities have prevented Muslims from fasting and praying during the sacred month of Ramadan, sending officials into their homes to check.
Since 15 July, Uyghurs must install an application on their mobile phones that allows the authorities to monitor their communication activities.
Activists also report that the region’s government has launched a mass DNA collection from residents not involved in any crime. The collection of biometric information is part of Beijing's policy of "maintaining stability" in China.
Reports from Uyghurs indicate that DNA collection began last September as part of a region-wide "health check-up". And since November 2016, police in Xinjiang have required that anyone applying for a passport must give a sample.