UAA concerned by top Chinese official's comments on language policy in East Turkestan


For immediate release
June 5, 2009, 4:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
 
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is concerned that comments made recently by the Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Nur Bekri, are an attempt to label peaceful Uyghurs as terrorist suspects and indicate an intensification in the Chinese authorities’ campaign to marginalize the Uyghur language.
 
In a report issued on June 5, 2009 by the China Daily, the Chinese government’s English language newspaper, Mr. Bekri is quoted as saying that “[t]errorists from neighboring countries mainly target Uygurs [Uyghurs] that are relatively isolated from mainstream society as they cannot speak Mandarin. They are then tricked into terrorist activities”.
 
The China Daily article also reports an acceleration in the implementation of the “bilingual” education policy in East Turkestan, which is also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Since its inception in 2002, the “bilingual” education policy has mandated the use of Mandarin Chinese as the primary language of instruction for Uyghur students throughout the education system. Mr. Bekri said that “[t]he students have benefited from mastering Mandarin. We are making our best effort to create opportunities and an environment for them to learn the language”.
 
UAA believes Mr. Bekri’s comments imply that those Uyghurs who only speak their mother tongue are inherently terrorist suspects. UAA also believes that by associating the Uyghur language with terrorism, Mr. Bekri is attempting to justify a language planning policy aimed at eliminating the use of the Uyghur language in the education system.
 
In a statement, Uyghur democracy leader, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, said “Nur Bekri’s comments illustrate the irresponsibility of the officials supposedly charged with the welfare of millions of Uyghurs in East Turkestan. The Uyghur language, which was spoken in East Turkestan long before the Mandarin language and is the mother tongue of Mr. Bekri, is under intense pressure. Mr. Bekri has made suspects of all those people who speak Uyghur in East Turkestan. His promotion of “bilingual” education will result in the elimination of the Uyghur language in East Turkestan as future generations of Uyghurs are educated in Mandarin Chinese.”
 
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is removing Uyghur language instruction from schools in East Turkestan in violation of its domestic law and international agreements. In the past two decades, and with increasing intensity since 2002, China has pursued assimilationist policies aimed at eliminating Uyghur as a language of instruction in East Turkestan.
 
Employing the term “bilingual” education, the PRC is, in reality, implementing a monolingual Chinese language education system that undermines the linguistic basis of Uyghur culture.         
 
The “bilingual” education imperative marks a dramatic shift away from more egalitarian past policies that provided choice for Uyghur parents in their children’s languages of instruction.
 
“Bilingual” education in East Turkestan has been responsible for:
 

 
·    Marginalizing Uyghur in the educational sphere with the goal of eliminating it as a language of instruction in East Turkestan.

·    Forcing Uyghur students at levels ranging from preschool to university to study in a second language.

·    Removing Uyghur children from their cultural environment and placing them into Chinese language “Xinjiang classes” located in inland China.

·    Using Chinese language requirements and school mergers to force veteran Uyghur teachers out of the classroom.

·    Taking decisions on language of instruction for Uyghur children out of the hands of parents.

·    Increasing tensions between Uyghurs and Han in East Turkestan.

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