Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism (UHRP)


This report gives an overview of the evolution and design of the restrictions on language in Xinjiang. It traces the evolution of CCP’s language policy on education in the “East Turkestan” (Xinjiang).  The goal is to highlight the Chinese government’s policy of Mandarin Language assimilation among ethnic minority communities.

The report also highlights the repression of initiatives that aimed to provide mother-tongue based multilingual education and discusses why the Chinese Government wants to marginalize the Uyghur language.   It specifically discusses the initiative of Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur scholar and a Ford Foundation International Fellow. The initiative which aimed to establish schools in the region that provided mother tongue-based multilingual education began in 2011. Following an International Mother Language Day celebration in Kashgar, in 2013, the school was closed and Abdulwali was subsequently arrested and charged him with collecting illegal donations.

“By imprisoning the leaders from the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education, the CCP intended to create a cautionary tale, and send a message to the ethnic minority communities of East Turkestan that minority language schools are forbidden.”

The report, further, delves into potential reasoning behind this crackdown on Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education.

The paper cites this excerpt from Chinese Government white paper published March of 2019 as an articulation of Chinese language ideology.

“In view of the fact that some trainees have been influenced by religious extremism, have not received good education, are weak in the use of standard spoken and written Chinese language, slow in acquiring modern knowledge, and have poor communication skills, the centers fully ensure citizens’ constitutional right to learn and use standard Chinese language and provide conditions for them to learn. Through education and training, the trainees have improved their competence in the use of standard Chinese language and broadened their channels to acquire modern knowledge and information. They have realized that only by mastering standard Chinese language can they better adapt to contemporary society.”

The author highlights that the implication of this text is that other regional languages “are deficient for communication, insufficient mediums for transmitting knowledge and information, yet functional as vehicles of religious extremism.” This then allows for the Chinese government to link Mandarin proficiency to modernity “and endows the CCP with a moral justification to detain Turkic Muslims, by asserting that detainment is a realization of a constitutional right.”

The report concludes by offering recommendations on how to resist Chinese linguistic imperialism. It recommends the use of a family language policy.

“A Uyghur-dominant family language policy that maintains Uyghur as normal and appropriate in the family domain may more adequately ensure that children develop competency in Uyghur… diaspora Uyghur communities that emphasize the intergenerational transmission of Uyghur language and culture may serve as important resources in the future, should the day come that Uyghurs in East Turkestan have the chance to reconnect with and revitalize their cultural heritage”


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