U.N. Celebrates ‘Chinese Language Day’ as Beijing Crushes Tibetan, Uyghur Speakers

Passengers take photos with a flag of the Communist Party of China at the Nantong Railway
STR/AFP via Getty

The United Nations held its 12th annual “Chinese Language Day” on Wednesday, a celebration in collaboration with Communist Party entities promoting fluency in Mandarin and dictator Xi Jinping’s interpretation of traditional Chinese culture.

The theme for this year’s celebration, which also featured a video festival that the Chinese government helped organize beginning in February, was “China Chic” – which U.N. organizers described as “a modern take on traditional Chinese heritage.”

The United Nations has six official languages and has established a day for each one. English and Spanish share a day, April 23, because both William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes died on that day. The U.N. observes French language day on March 20, Russian language day on June 6, and Arabic language day on December 18.

Unlike the other five languages the United Nations celebrates, however, Mandarin – what the Chinese Communist Party insists on referring to as “Chinese” or putonghua (“common language”) – is the subject of a sweeping national campaign to eradicate minorities languages and culture in China. Mandarin is the language common to Beijing and northeast China, but not native to vast swathes of China, including the south (where Cantonese is common), East Turkistan (where natives speak Uyghur), Tibet (home to the Tibetan language), and Inner Mongolia (where locals speak Mongolian).

Under communist dictator Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has implemented policies to replace local languages with Mandarin that range from switching schools from local languages to Mandarin to forcing Mandarin language instruction on prisoners at concentration camps.

The U.N. partnered with the architects of what victims insist is a cultural genocide to promote its preferred language on Wednesday. Among the activities to celebrate Mandarin is a “video festival” to celebrate Chinese culture organized by Communist Party media organs.

The U.N. also hosted an online event on Tuesday to discuss the value of the Mandarin language to the rest of the world featuring two agents of the Chinese communist regime.

“The festival opens the door to China’s ancient culture and ‘China Chic’ – a modern take on traditional Chinese heritage is an opportunity to promote Chinese cultural diversity among the younger generation and to empower those for whom Chinese is not a first language,” a United Nations press release paraphrased U.N. Geneva office head Tatiana Valovaya as saying, before handing over the discussion to the head of the China Media Group, an arm of the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“Shen Haixiong, president and editor-in-chief of China Media Group, said in his speech, Chinese Language Day is designed to celebrate the diversity of both language and culture and promote multilateralism,” the U.N. detailed. “He said, as the flagship state media organization, China Media Group will continue to work to break down barriers and promote mutual understanding, creating a more peaceful world, and building a community with a shared future for mankind.”

A Chinese government envoy, Chen Xu, added to the affair that, “without understanding the splendid Chinese culture, it is hard to really understand the unique spiritual world of the Chinese people and similarly, without understanding the development trend of modern China, it is difficult to understand China’s present and future.”

The event did not appear to include any of the other languages spoken within China or mention of the government campaign to eradicate the native Tibetan, Uyghur, and Mongolian languages. China is home to over 300 recognized languages though the government claims over 80 percent of citizens now speak Mandarin.

The Communist Party announced a nationwide campaign in 2017 to “fully promote and spread the national common language and script” that significantly limited the power of local governments to use the language they chose. The expansion followed campaigns that outraged local citizens throughout the company encouraging locals to adopt Mandarin. In Guangzhou, for example – where the majority speak Cantonese – the Communist Party posted signs in elementary schools in 2010 reading, “Speak Putonghua, write standard Chinese, use civilized language, be a civilized person.”

The regime’s strategy to replace local languages with Mandarin is similar throughout ethnic minority regions. In Tibet, the Communist Party imposed Mandarin as the official school language in the occupied region despite the language not being traditionally spoken there. Tibetans have expressed alarm that their language appears to be disappearing, as children become more used to spending all day speaking Mandarin.

“After school is over even, the students prefer to use Chinese instead of Tibetan, even in their daily conversations,” an unnamed Tibetan source told Radio Free Asia (RFA) in 2020.

“Chinese as a medium for instruction strips off the students’ love for the Tibetan language and their sense of pride in studying their mother tongue,” Arya Tsewang Gyalpo, the spokesman for the Central Tibetan Administration, told RFA. “The current Chinese education policy in Tibet violates both China’s Regional Ethic Autonomy Law and the Tibetan Autonomous Regional Law.”

Tibetans have organized protests against the Communist Party imposing a foreign tongue on their children that have resulted in extensive violence and mass arrests. Some Tibetans have taken to self-immolation to defend their culture and language. Political unrest and locals defending their language, culture, and religion has led to the Communist Party reportedly placing tens of thousands in “rehabilitation” camps.

In East Turkistan, which China refers to by the Mandarin name “Xinjiang,” international human rights experts have almost universally concluded that the Communist Party is committing genocide. Concentration camps for millions of prisoners have become a common sight in the region. Survivors of the camps say that – in addition to gang rape, slavery, and excruciating torture – camp administrators force Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities common to East Turkistan to take Mandarin classes within the camps. The Chinese Communist Party has justified the camps by claiming they are “vocational training” centers and that Uyghurs are being forced to speak Mandarin to improve their job prospects.

The regime has arrested and silenced Uyghur language teachers and branded the Uyghur language “incompatible with modernity.”

An independent tribunal found China guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of genocide in East Turkistan last year, citing the use of concentration camps and a mass campaign of forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women and killing Uyghur babies.

Inner Mongolia has faced a less severe but nonetheless present campaign to remove Mongolian language instruction from schools. In September 2020, communist authorities arrested hundreds of people participating in a protest against what the Party euphemistically called “bilingual education.” The protests prompted as many as 300,000 students to engage in an education strike alongside their parents, who also went on strike, in August of that year.

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