Interview, News, Southern Mongolia

Southern Mongolian herder Sarankhuu: All Mongolian music, art and information are fully censored in Southern Mongolia. What is happening in Southern Mongolia?

What is happening in Southern Mongolia?

Southern Mongolians have been fighting to protect their mother tongue since 2019. Mongolians from all over the world, including Southern Mongolia, Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva Mongols, joined the Save the Mongolian Language movement which involved a series of peaceful protests against CCP’s language policy.  During the protests, a number of people in Southern Mongolia expressed their opposition to China's policy which drew international attention and sacrificed their lives in order to protect our mother tongue. . I would like to remind you that there were peaceful demonstrations in Mongolia in support of the Southern Mongolians. Moreover, the Daily News\Udriin Sonin sent a letter to the UN Resident Coordinator on this issue and made his position public.

At the time, the Chinese side arrested parents who took part in the protest, punished hundreds of people who expressed their opinions, and videos of children joining the struggle and running away from school went viral. With the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early 2020 and the country's closure of the border, Southern Mongolia is still a closed region, isolated from the outside world, and there is no word on what is going on there. When I try to visit Southern Mongolia in August and September to report on the situation, I was told that if I crossed the border, I would not be able to go further, or it may lead to any subject to strict controls, and I would be imprisoned if it turns wrong. So we used Wechat and some information and communication channels to connect with sources for five months, collecting news and information, and observed the situation there. Southern Mongolians are living under constant tight surveillance and find it difficult to speak to each other. It was extremely difficult to collect information from Southern Mongolia, and we had to wait 2-3 months for an answer to a question.

Here is an interview with Sarankhuu, a herder from Southern Mongolia. (The name has been changed to protect the interviewer's safety.)

In 2019, the struggle for the Mongolian language movement was set up in Southern Mongolia, and in 2020 it intensified. Southern Mongolia has been isolated from the outside world in the name of closing the border during the COVID period. Therefore, it is insurmountable to know exactly what is happening there. Can you tell us what's going on there?

"We know almost as much as you know." There are always a lot of numbers on TV and in the newspapers saying that everything is fine, and there is no news to watch or read. The truth is not told at all. It is forbidden to know the truth through network communication. "We have opposed the party's policy," as they say and call from Police. There is always one informer who had gotten in each Southern Mongolian network communication group secretly. We tried to discuss it with a secret word, but it didn't work out. Inevitably, we talk about "How much is the grass?" and "What's the weather like there?"

As herders, we don't go to many places and meet many people. Only a few words will be carefully exchanged with some people close to you. It reminds me of the Cultural Revolution.

-Have you seen the Cultural Revolution with your own eyes? What is the origin of this event? There are many people here who say, "Southern Mongolians have voluntarily joined communist China," and write comments on social media. Did you really join voluntarily?

-It was a time when I had grown. Let me tell you a little story. I want to say everything from the beginning. After World War II, Southern Mongolia expressed its desire to join the People's Republic of Mongolia, but the People's Republic of Mongolia refused. After several years as an independent state, our Southern Mongolia was occupied by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Therefore, they lied to us through the establishment of the Middle Kingdom which has equal rights, and to get out from it, and held a fake conference, forcibly had us make the decision “to join”, and illegally, coercively united us in a non-established state. They first explained our right to self-governance: if we accept the integrity of the Middle Kingdom, we should know and decide everything ourselves. But now where is the right to self-governance? 

-Is it called Inner Mongolia Autonomous  \self-governing\ Region?

"That's right." After that, before the establishment of the MK (Middle Kingdom), the Chinese committed a great massacre in Southern Mongolia, saying that they would "establish social order." In addition, they were saying that “Southern Mongolians are going to join the People's Republic of Mongolia," then tyrannizing us. After the establishment of the Middle Kingdom of China, there were many atrocities, such as "Distribution of pastures" in fact to seize the pasture as state property, "West-East", "Fight against the reformers" and "Great Leap Forward". 

But how to keep up with the 10-year Cultural Revolution? That was 10 years of real hell. People who have been killed, tortured or imprisoned. The number of people killed, tortured, and imprisoned is unknown. There is no family that has not been repressed. It's amazing that we are left in Southern Mongolia. I remember the last years of the Cultural Revolution when things got a little better. That's why I'm not saying it as I heard from someone that "It's like the Cultural Revolution now." It's like the years I've seen myself.

-How did you get rid of the Cultural Revolution? What happened next? What years did you spend?

-Chairman Mao himself said it was a failure, stopped shortly afterward, passed away soon. The people marched and demanded a new soft policy. Chairman Deng launched a market policy. We went to the market economy to get food because we had no food to eat. The few remaining animals were given to herders. In 1982, fencing of herders' pastures began. Previously, the land was only state property. However, herders were keep moving. In order to prevent this, the so-called "Joint property" was established in the livestock sector, and set up the boundary between state property and collective property.

So we were locked up in a small fenced area called "Joint property" and all the other great lands were called "state property" and they repeated their previous robbery. We don't own the land, we don't own anything. But it had become that we can't move like we used to. In a small area together, people and animals were trapped.

In my beautiful steppe, outsiders have become whatever they want. Herders have entered into temporary land tenure agreements with the state. The side of the temporary owner herders is called “Gatsaa”. The gatsaa was made agreements with each herder and the land was allocated in detail. \They made agreements with each herder because it is gatsaa\. This land is not private property, it is a state property that is temporarily responsible by the gatsaa.

-How has the situation changed with the transition to the market?

-Well, herders suffered a lot during the market transition. It was a lot for them to be left destitute and to die. So we barely figured it out. It was also a time of great joy after reaping the benefits of the market. It had turned even worse since the 2010s. Herder land will be confiscated for various reasons.

There are many reasons. If minerals are discovered, they will be turned into state property. Beautiful lands will be protected by the state. If it is not beautiful, they update, prevent it from sand storms, make it green, give lands to long residing Chinese people, mobilize for planting, build factories, rest the lands, build cities, expand, etc. The local government has Chinese leaders, not Mongolians, and they don't know or don't want to know about our suffering as herders.

-The situation was getting worse, wasn't it?

-Lately, it was said that pasture livestock would be banned completely in the end. In many places, grazing is prohibited. There, herders secretly herd their animals at night, or they fence their animals for many days, buy hay and feed them. In some cases, police officers confiscate and detain livestock for secret grazing, as well as shootings and throwing animals from heights. In some places, it is not banned, but meat, milk, wool, cashmere, and hides become devalued and have to be burned. To keep the animals from grazing, the clouds are shot and dispersed, causing drought.

Millions of pigs and many pig farmers were brought from neighboring provinces to settle. Southern Mongolia is full of pigs, it seems like pigs are eating the people. There is also a lot of typhoid fever among pigs, sick pigs are spread out, plague spreads to our herds, and the environment is polluted. It is said that industrialized livestock is needed. The livestock sector will be managed by the Chinese people. I saw a video of a cow that has exceeded milk on a wheeled platform. We Mongolians have become an economically inefficient and surplus population. As herders, we spend our days in a situation where we can lose everything we have tomorrow.

-Does the government compensate herders who have their livestock confiscated?

-It is said that herders who have lost their pastures will be compensated and indicate the area and installs everywhere. It is often said that Native Americans have been oppressed, and we are becoming like that. In many cases, the compensation is not equal to the damage, or even not paid. There are many people who have not succeeded in seeking compensation. They give shelter to stay in the city, and some don't, at the discretion of the local mayor. The urban Chinese and the herdsmen are not good at the Chinese language and professions, they can't find work, so they do the worst work, some of them become beggars, some of them disappear.

-Did Southern Mongolians fight against all this?

-We, herders, have fought hard to protect our rights, and every year a hero is killed in the struggle, many people are imprisoned and tortured, and many people are beaten and injured during the struggle. There was a time when the protests of herders increased, protest circles and associations were formed here and there, and the fires of struggle were kindled. So we decided, "Let's fight together instead of fighting separately" "Let's have a big meeting in Ar Horchin," talked through the network. 


-Only in 2017. If it had been a demonstration, it would have shaken the world. However, the organizers who spoke to the network were arrested at their homes or on their way to the demonstration and made it disorganized. They brought the soldiers, policemen, and trucks to the demonstration square, and announced “Don’t join the march”, strictly warned the supporters, get some of them in strict detention. Since then, the movement has been banned. So we stopped fighting and got stuck. The activists were placed under house arrest without any date to release. As the Mongolian writer wrote, it has become a place without the space to step.

-When did the problem of the mother tongue become serious?

-In early 2021, The National People's Congress declared that "it is unconstitutional for students to study in a minority language." They are violating the Constitution. According to the Constitution, all nations have equal rights. In the Middle Kingdom, there seems to be nothing as useless as our language. Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the Mongolian language has been suppressed and the Chinese language has been solicited.

When the Mongolian script became “outdated and difficult to teach”, some of us started the transition to the new Cyrillic alphabet, saying, “Then let's be like our Mongolian brothers and sisters”. We taught the Cyrillic alphabet, wrote some addresses and slogans in Cyrillic, and published books. Then they were afraid that we would be like Northern Mongolia, so they started to say, "Teach the Mongolian traditional vertical script." There was a time when Mongolian language and script were needed for communist propaganda.

-Was the Mongolian language and script banned during the Cultural Revolution?

-Mongolian schools were closed during the Cultural Revolution. In fact, it was a time when it was not known whether all Mongolian and Chinese schools existed. The school was a place where the Red Guards shouted, cursed, and tortured the so-called enemies of the people. It was a bad time even students tortured their teachers. The so-called Red Guards shouted, "Chinese characters will be used in Mongolian," and experimented. But uneducated rioters failed. Those many roaming riots had no place to live. However Mongolian families were attacked, oppressed, fed, beaten, and brutally beaten by them. The Mongols resisted them as best they could, sometimes at gunpoint, but were crushed as a number of people. We did not lose our language and culture during those difficult times. Today, we are in a difficult situation in terms of language and culture since the Cultural Revolution. Apparently, it might be estimated that Southern Mongolians would disappear if their language was destroyed.

After the revelation of the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution, such as the “Four Robbers Case” and the “Eastern Mistake”, in 1978, Mongolian schools began to be rebuilt. As soon as he recovered, he tried to study Chinese. Soum and gatsaa schools were merged and enlarged, and as soon as they were opened, they were closing them again. It was announced that education would soon become private. It is said that deception is a commodity to make money. Mongolian language and culture issues have always been serious.

-When and how many attempts were made to teach Mongolian children Chinese?

-There have been about ten attempts to teach Chinese in Mongolian schools. In each case, the Mongols protested and stopped. In 2017, Mongolian schools in the Bayangol district of Xinjiang were taught in Chinese. Then the Mongols began to fight, saying, "Maybe all of Southern Mongolia will do the same."

The leader of Southern Mongolia, even Bu Chair whose grandfather is Ulaankhuu, the father is Bokhoo, did not fulfill the policy of sinicization to the extent she was instructed to do. She lost consciousness at a party meeting in Beijing because he was under a lot of pressure, and was soon fired. In 2020, they made another decisive attack. Even when the movement was banned and there were double bans due to pandemics, the Southern Mongolians revolted. No major struggle has taken place in Southern Mongolia since 1981. In 1981, a Mongolian student uprising protested against the decision to relocate many Chinese in connection with the implementation of the market.

2020 was bigger than 1981. Students revolted in 1981, but all Mongolian parents have just revolted. The children struggled a lot, escaping, running away, and marching. Parents assembled to the network, filed a lawsuit, marched with slogans, write petitions. Several people committed suicide as a sign of protest. Many people were arrested to stop the struggle. Prisons were overcrowded and hotels were turned into temporary detention facilities.

-What was the result of the protests of Northern and Southern Mongolians struggle?

-There are people who say that the struggle only brought trouble. If we don't fight, we will end up even faster. Government officials, primary and secondary school teachers, Odon TV staff, and even the police joined the uprising. The opening of the new school year did not take place in Southern Mongolian schools. Thousands of students would come to a Mongolian school in Naiman Khoshuu, Jirem aimag, but only a dozen students came.

We were encouraged to know through the network that our Mongolian brothers and sisters were the most supportive. As a result of the uprising, at first, it was said that "all lessons will be taught in Chinese" then "three lessons will be taught in Chinese." In southern Mongolia, textbooks published in Chinese were destroyed due to popular protests and were hastily published in Mongolian.

In the summer of 2020, not only attacks on the Mongolian language and script began. An attack on Mongolian culture has begun. Addresses, inscriptions, and slogans in Mongolian script in schools, cultural and public places were removed and scraped. Monuments, vintage paintings, and ornaments of Mongolian origin on the streets were demolished. The statue of Chinggis Khan was demolished as its number was a lot. Mongolian-language books and magazines were confiscated from schools and cultural institutions and burned because they were not needed, and weren’t sold as they said. In some places, it was instructed that "Mongolian script and Mongolian culture should not be seen alone, but should be confused with Chinese culture." "If you want to depict the role of Chinggis Khan, do it in parallel with Mao," they said. We have stood up against all this.

-I heard that the people who joined the protest were punished and tortured in various ways. Some of them are heartbreaking to mention here?

-The uprising was suppressed and tens of people were imprisoned. Many other punishments were imposed. The whole of Southern Mongolia became a criminal. Many of them were fired. Thousands of coins were promised and searched for people whose faces were clearly visible in the video. Mongolians were fired from public service, unskilled Chinese were replaced, and jobs were lost. Private businesses were barred from trading, fined, and punished as "Employed dissidents." It is important for herders to get loans and run their own farms. However, they stopped lending to herders and said, "Repay your old loan quickly or you will go to jail." People's accounts were closed and savings were robbed. Livestock thefts against southern Mongolians became more common due to the lack of legal guarantees, and the Chinese began to seize sheep and goats by car. Even the families of the suiciders have been accused of telling the truth.

The children were abducted and isolated, and her parents were accused of "violating their children's right to education." It announced that If parents not send a child to school will result in disqualification, blacklisting, and disenfranchisement. Many Mongolian-language networks, such as “Baina uu”, have been shut down. Activist Yanjindulam was sentenced to 10 years in prison and hastily imprisoned for "inciting revolt" when she was in house arrest. Her husband was also detained for "supporting his wife's ideology." He was released after her arrest, but he was not allowed to say a word about Yanjindulam. Now we don't know what happened to Yanjindulam and the other detainees. They missed and we aren’t allowed to ask. Southern Mongolia has become a brutal police state.

After the protest, the Southern Mongolian Education Committee expressed, “The people of Inner Mongolia support the party's policy and want to have a unified textbook. "We are determined to implement the policies pursued in Tibet and Xinjiang as exemplary autonomous regions." Studying in a unified textbook means studying in Chinese.  

-It is difficult to ask how the situation is after the struggle. But let me ask?

-Mongolian parents organized a "strike" to prevent children from going to school. The children were forcibly abducted by soldiers and police, and classes began on September 15. The police were preventing the parents to be attacked, and children not to be run away,”. They started the school with high walls, and in some cases, wires were on the top of it. The thought of an involuntary prison comes to mind. Chairman Xi gave a direct ordinance, “Inner Mongolians, a minority, need to remember that you will not be separated from the Han and that the Han will not be separated from you. The Autonomous Government House should increase the use of the common language, correct nationalism, and national culture, address minority issues, and introduce textbooks that are used throughout the Middle Kingdom in schools.” The common language is Chinese. It seems they are not actually following that not all classes are taught in Chinese, just three subjects in Chinese and the rest have to be in Mongolian, and different things are heard from different places. There have been cases of Mongolian teachers being fired, Chinese teachers, being hired in their place, becoming unable to speak the language and understand each other, saying “Mongolian-Chinese schools will be merged”, Mongolian-Chinese children being mixed up, and turned into Chinese schools.

Southern Mongolian history and culture subjects were closed. In new textbooks, words such as “Mongolia” were removed and replaced with “Chinese part”. The content of the course is full of Chinese culture and the ideology of the Red Guard. Children are dressed in red guards' uniforms, they sing red guards' songs, dances, and plays. The character of the enemy has a Mongolian national costume, an outdated and nationalist person. We heard that the word "explosive" on a package was given to children and trained to explode with their enemies.

To put it bluntly, they are trying to raise the children against their parents and against the Mongolian nation. But we will not lead to such a situation, and our children do not like such training because they are Mongolian children.

-Are only children involved in this ideological training?

- No, it's not. Southern Mongolian students, who also ideologically developed. Mongolian students resented all of this and got into serious trouble by hanging the Mongolian flag in their dormitory room. Students dressed in Mongolian national costumes were abused. Adults are also involved in the same ideological training as children. There are many re-educational centers. It teaches Chinese culture and the ideology of the Red Guards. They train them for months and take the exam. Dress them as a red guard, they will sing, dance and act. Memorize Chairman Xi's red book and shout. Chairman Xi's red book has also been published. All this is very depressing in our herders' lives. Both young children and adults are involved in military training a lot.

-Is the use of Mongolian language and script decreasing?

- "Please speak the public language in public" and "Speaking the public language is a sign of a civilized person" were posted everywhere. Sometimes you feel as if you are in a foreign country, not in your homeland.

The law for the entire population of Southern Mongolia is comparable to the two languages, but at the beginning, there is a law to write in Mongolian first, which has been forgotten. At the wedding, introduced a new custom that the couple first should worship Chairman Mao. The Southern Mongolian government has accused the law of being a manifestation of nationalism. The authorities are constantly asked to speed up the process of becoming a monolingual state. Under the guise of "strengthening the promotion of the public language in all its aspects," Sinicization is gaining momentum. "The public language and the square Chinese characters have to be used a lot to amalgamate," as they said. From 2025, there will be no Mongolian language system and the transition to full Chinese language is expected. The Mongolian language is no more than a trivial thing to use at home. Citizens are not allowed to teach Mongolian, and only public schools have the right to teach. Some people secretly taught Mongolian through the network, and it was discovered and stopped. 

-How difficult is it? The situation is really difficult. I heard that to be creating a mixed culture. What kind of culture is that?

-In sacred places such as Mongolian ovoo rituals, the Chinese dance Chinese dances, or Mongolian-Chinese people dance Chinese dances together. Or they even hoisted the Red Guard's banner there, made Mongolians sing and dance for the Red Guard, and shouted ideological words. They are turning the place to the Red Guard’s place of worship. Excessive dissemination of Chinese culture took place at Mongolian cultural events, or Mongolian cultural .programs were discontinued and replaced instead.

TV programs and cartoons for Mongolian children are now available only in Chinese An acquaintance of mine tried to send his son who doesn’t know Chinese at all to a suitable Mongolian school. But he couldn’t find such a school. The boy learned the meaning of the Chinese characters and was reading the character in Mongolian.

They are trying hard to create acculturation. Let the people with Chinese-Mongolian music and Chinese-Mongolian clothes play Chinese music. They talk about mutual assimilation, in fact, it is sinicization. "You can't talk about Mongolian culture, you should talk Chinese pasture culture." All Mongolian music, art, and information are completely banned. As a result, some Mongolians are no longer watching television.

"I'm going to shake my head." It's too much. Kindergarten children will be educated in Chinese, right?

-From the summer of 2021, preschool education in Southern Mongolia will be available only in Peking dialect. This is more serious than 2020. Even before the relevant decision was made, many kindergartens started teaching in the Beijing dialect, where children could not speak Mongolian. It is heartbreaking that young children are scolded and beaten by cruel Chinese teachers for not knowing Chinese and being born a Mongolian children.

What will happen if a child who does not speak Mongolian fluently is bombarded with the Chinese language, culture and ideology? From a very young age, everything happens in Chinese what happens? Young children are learning Chinese better than Mongolian.

Will we Mongolians have no descendants? "What grows in the middle of it is the motherland and all kinds of things," people depressing. There are people who live without thinking and are always depressing. There are many brave people who say that they should not be attacked and pressured. However, it is no longer possible to fight like in 2020, and Southern Mongolia is under a very severe dictatorship. Leaders often talk about the example of Xinjiang. This means making Southern Mongolia the Second Xinjiang. Thus, the Great Cultural Revolution is taking place again in Southern Mongolia. Recently, there have been rumors that the name Inner Mongolia will be abolished and will be renamed as the “Chinese side”. "The language, culture, and symbols of the Mongols threaten the integrity of the Middle Kingdom." Being a Mongolian is a threat to the Middle Kingdom.

-It seems that there is a lot of talk about the policy of forming a joint complex. What is that policy? Is it also an anti-Mongolian policy?

-There is a lot of talk about "building a collective \commun\". It is a policy that all 56 nations together will become a middle or Zhonghua nation. To be a Zhonghua means to be Chinese. There is a policy that both Mongolians and Tibetans are originally Zhonghua nations. It is said that all will unite into one body like a pomegranate, and this idea was represented in Southern Mongolia by a girl named Pomegranate. People called pomegranates are getting more popular. So why is the world so closed? We call Trump a yellow man and Biden a white man. In the old days, during the age of the yellow man, there was a lot of hope, and there was a lot of talk about whether the sky would change or whether a rocket would be launched.

Of course, the issues of some nations around the world are very important. However, in the Middle Kingdom, all nations and ethnic groups, except for the original Beijing dialect people, are about to disappear. The Chinese are dissolving people with non-Beijing accents, making them speak only Beijing accents. One-third of the Chinese have a non-Beijing accent. Fifty-five non-Chinese nationalities, 10 non-Beijing dialects, and a total of hundreds of millions of people are about to disappear. Where is the world? (His voice trailed off)

-I hear a desperate situation. Personally, for now, I just want to say, "I'm sorry." My voice is hoarse, sorry, Mongolians.

-Herders are desperate and some of them are even discussing “what are the opportunities to flee to Mongolia, Australia, USA and Canada in large numbers”. "If you go out, you'll see fresh air. If you don't, you'll end up in jail."

It's hard to be persecuted, to be speechless, to melt in the end. Looking for a place to survive and live. Looking for a place to pick someone up. Passport issues are difficult. We are thinking of a way out of the mountains. It's a desperate thought (Crying).

-I'm sorry ...

-Some people say, "It's easy to go to Mongolia," "It's hard to find work in Mongolia," and "There is an international organization in Khalkha, so let's go to a place where we can find freedom." "Let's have at least one person out of the house," they said. Let's go out in tens or tens of thousands. Let's buy land and live in a huddle. ”(cry one's eyes out

). We are otter cubs trapped in the rocks. Of course, we Mongolians will protect our homeland, but it seems that there are many people who want to go abroad ... The number of people who say this is growing due to despair.

-What is the internal and external situation in China? When is it expected to open its port with Mongolia? What are they talking about?

-The "One Belt One Road" policy of the Middle Kingdom is, in fact, the domination of the world by the Middle Kingdom. It used all the methods of intimidation and hard and soft to implement it, but it quarreled with all the countries of the world.

COVID is common in the Middle Kingdom. There is not enough grain. There are more and more calls to save food. Unemployment is rising. "Mongolia is closed and difficult," you say. China is the same. There is a lot of crisis in the square. All the fat bosses criticized each other and even published in the newspapers. Chairman Xi will not live to be 100. At some point, China's national policy may change. Anything can happen. Many big things are not known in advance.

The Middle Kingdom will not open its doors to Mongolia until the end of the Olympics. "Mongolia is very dangerous as its COVID," say the fat bosses.

-Where did this virus first come from?

-Even in the future, it seems that the Middle Kingdom will close its doors and become a completely closed country. When I was born, it was a completely closed country. It's going to be the same as you get older. It was closed during the Cultural Revolution, and it is going to be closed during the new Cultural Revolution. Chairman Xi was a Red Guard, and the Red Guards were blamed and punished. Are you getting the revenge now? Chairman Xi is raising the Red Guard to the top of the country. My life begins with the Cultural Revolution and ends with the Cultural Revolution.

That is why it is very important to prepare the brothers and sisters of a free and sovereign Mongolia for how to live without the Middle Kingdom. As before, to travel freely in the Middle Kingdom and trade is impossible now. But for us Southern Mongolians, the time may come when we will be separated from our other Mongolian brothers and sisters behind closed walls. It may last for many years. Let's end the conversation with tears (Crying).

Resource: Gansaruul.D, Journalist of Daily News Mongolia

Daily News


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