Censors Take Down Discussion of Last Mongolian-language College Entrance Exams

The Douban comment was not inflammatory. In fact, it didn’t even betray an overt opinion. But for censors, it was too much. “A note for posterity: this will be Inner Mongolia’s last Mongolian-language gaokao,” it read. Censors took it down shortly after it was posted. In 2025, phased reforms to China’s college entrance exam will extend to Inner Mongolia, Yunnan, Qinghai, Ningxia, and other provinces in 2025, ending minority language-medium exams in those places. On Weibo, there are barely any mentions of the end of the Mongolian-medium gaokao—an indication the subject is being artificially repressed. Two comments archived and translated by CDT Chinese indicate the sensitivity of the news. The first laments the loss of the Mongolian-language gaokao and the second touches on the censorship of online discussion of the reforms: 

@MendAmvr: I used to lose myself in the grandeur of history. Now that I find myself amidst history-in-the-making, I feel tragedy in all its hues. 2024 will be the last Mongolian-language gaokao, then it’ll be booted from the stage—lost in a voiceless void. 

@无休无止的巡礼香客: I didn’t find anything when I searched Weibo but in Douban’s “Elephant Group” and on Douyin, I saw that this year will be the last Mongolian language gaokao. So sad. What’s even sadder is I’ve got so much to say on the matter but I need to weigh what I’m allowed to say. I often think this society can only tolerate two kinds of opinions: “normal” and “correct.” [Chinese]

The first of those Weibo comments, by @Mendamvr, was taken down by censors.

The gaokao reforms conform with a government campaign to have 85% of the population speaking Mandarin by 2025. The push is controversial. In 2020, the replacement of Mongolian with Chinese as the language of instruction for core classes in Inner Mongolian schools sparked rare public protests and mass censorship of dissent. The push to assimilate ethnic Mongolians has extended into history: mentions of Genghis Khan have been systematically removed from museums, plays, curricula, and books. A 25-year-old Mongol man living in Inner Mongolia told The Economist: “They don’t want minorities to be too distinctive […] To be blunt, they want to turn us into Han.” After the 2020 protests were suppressed, a number of ethnically Mongolian Chinese citizens moved to the neighboring republic of Mongolia in order to allow their children to attend school in their native tongue. In December 2023, Christian Shepherd of The Washington Post reported that these exiles are subject to state harassment and “cross-border” policing:  

Beijing views exiles like the small but growing number of China-born Mongolians living in Ulaanbaatar as dangerous pockets of overseas resistance who could incite protest at home. Six people who spoke to The Washington Post all reported varying degrees of Chinese police harassment and intimidation through phone calls, messages and pressure on their families in China.

[….] “Life has been very difficult,” [an ethnically Mongolian teacher who left Inner Mongolia in 2020] said through tears, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from Chinese authorities. “Under Chinese rule, we lost our ancestral land and now they are taking away everything. Mongols in China will be Chinese within generations,” she said, suggesting they will be stripped of their identity.

[…] More recently, the teacher said her fears intensified after she heard about an ethnic Mongol Chinese citizen, a dissident writer in his 80s, who was sent back to China. His case is at least the fifth instance of a Chinese passport holder being returned involuntarily from Mongolia since 2009, according to Safeguard Defenders, a human rights organization. In most cases, Mongolian authorities detain people and hand them over to China. [Source]

Inner Mongolia is, of course, not the only region impacted by the Party-state’s Mandarin push. In 2021, the language learning app Talkmate and video-sharing site Bilibili removed Tibetan and Uyghur languages from their platforms while leaving up numerous foreign languages. In Tibet, a vast system of boarding schools that educates 78% of Tibetan children aged 6-18 is aimed at assimilating children into Han culture. They do not offer adequate Tibetan language instruction. In northeast China, schools in a Korean autonomous region also switched away from Korean-medium education for core subjects. Language assimilation is part and parcel of the state’s broader vision for “ethnic fusion,” i.e. a PRC free of cultural difference. Aaron Glasserman explained the campaign in a 2023 article for ChinaFile:  

[Pan Yue’s] election to the Central Committee suggests that the Xi administration’s hard turn toward assimilationism will likely continue and perhaps intensify. Pan is the second Han official in a row to head the Ethnic Affairs Commission, which for nearly 70 years had been led by a Party member from a non-Han nationality. Since the beginning of Xi’s second term in 2017, measures related to “managing” ethnic minorities have run the gamut from destruction of what officials deem “foreign” architectural elements such as mosque domes and removal of Arabic signage on restaurant awnings and storefronts to the imposition of Mandarin as the sole language of instruction for certain subjects in some schools. Repression has been most severe in Tibet and Xinjiang, where the local populations have been subjected to extreme restrictions on movement, constant surveillance, mass internment, and as has been reported of Uyghur women, forced sterilization.

[…] As with his embrace of Chinese tradition, Pan was early in his unqualified endorsement of “ethnic fusion.” He elaborated this concept in his 2002 dissertation, “Research on the History and Actual Situation of Migrant Settlement of China’s Western Region,” a proposal to settle 50 million Han from eastern and central China in western China over the following half century. Pan argued that large-scale migration would address multiple crises China faces: easing the pressures of overpopulation in the country’s eastern and central regions, facilitating exploitation of natural resources while advancing the country’s sustainable development, and eliminating the national security threat of ethnic separatism by eroding the differences between ethnic groups and promoting “ethnic fusion.”

[…] Pan’s appointment to lead the Ethnic Affairs Commission and his promotion to the Central Committee mark the convergence of his long-stated views on ethnic fusion and the more recent assimilationist turn in Chinese ethnic governance. Of course, what Pan wrote in his 2002 dissertation will not necessarily determine how he will handle ethnic governance today. But there is good reason to believe that Pan remains committed to “ethnic fusion” and is continuing to promote it as he moves toward the inner ring of Chinese political power. In a 2019 speech at the Central Institute of Socialism, Pan reiterated nearly word-for-word his 2001 assertion of the inevitability of assimilation, stating that “no matter the strength of foreign religions, whenever they enter China, they will all be integrated into Chinese civilization.” [Source]


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.