China Bans Muslim Minority’s Language in Schools


The ethnically-Muslim Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province has been banned from using its language in schools. The Education Department in Holtan province issued a five point directive recently.

According to Radio Free Asia, the directive urged schools to prevent the Uyghur language in “collective activities, public activities, and management work of the education system” and to “resolutely correct the flawed method of providing Uyghur language training to Chinese language teachers.”

The policy will run from preschool to the first years of middle school “in order to realize the full coverage of the common language and writing system education.” Failure to comply would result in severe punishment, according to the station.

The Communist Party maintains it is working on establishing a bilingual system in the region’s schools to accommodate those speaking Mandarin and those speaking Uyghur.

Critics argue it’s an effort to suppress the Uyghur language and culture. In fact, this episode adds to a bloody narrative between the Uyghur and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region. Ilshat Hassan, the president of the US-based Uyghur American Association, lashed at the policy. He said, “By enforcing this new policy at the preschool level, the Chinese government intends to kill the Uighur language in the cradle.”

Clashes have sparked in recent years between the two sides. The government blames Islamist extremists and separatists. Critics argue these actions were in response to repressive government policies.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.