Introduction: 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 Chinese government is, in reality, implementing a monolingual Chinese language education system that undermines the linguistic basis of Uyghur culture.
Under the policy, school mergers have resulted in greatly reduced availability of Uyghur language education. This process began in 2004 with the announced merger of 50 Uyghur and Chinese language schools and the directive that in these schools teaching should be conducted in Chinese language as much as possible. As a result, Uyghur schools are being merged out of existence all over East Turkestan.
The following is an impassioned personal take by Zubayra Shamseden, a Uyghur native of Ghulja, upon learning that her alma mater, Ghulja city No. 2 High School, would be merged with a Chinese high school:
Zubayra Shamseden, International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation
I felt terrible when I heard the news that the Ghulja city No. 2 High School would be amalgamated with a Chinese school – Ghulja No. 6 High School. The amalgamation means that one of the historic milestones of Uyghur education will be wiped from East Turkestan history in this high tech, education-oriented century. As a former student of the school, it is very difficult for me to imagine that when I visit East Turkestan one day, I won’t be able to see any trace of my beloved school in my home town Ghulja city. The school has over 100 years of history and embodies the great legacy of Uyghur education. Since its establishment, although it faced many challenges and obstacles (especially since the beginning of Chinese communist rule), it still produced countless influential figures in the areas of politics, academia, governance and other areas. It is not difficult to find living examples of all the success of Uyghur education in East Turkestan as well as abroad. As a former student of the school, I still remember the wonderful classrooms, friends, class discussions, and great teachers’ insightful teachings that shaped my life’s destiny and my views about the world. To me, losing such a great source of inspiration for my people is similar to losing my own brother and sisters on the battlefield. It hurts and leaves unforgettable scars in my heart.
What sort of paranoid mentality does the Chinese government have? Why do you have to diminish a source of great education that in fact even brings benefit to your ‘occupation’? One of the loyal governors in your ‘Xinjiang’ government, Mr. Ablet Abdirishit- isn’t he the product of that school as well? Mahinur Kasim one of the great actors in the establishment of your communist ‘Xinjiang government’ in East Turkestan- isn’t she also the product of that school?
What is behind the so- called ‘bilingual education’ slogan?
How is the implementation of ‘bilingual education’ policies related to the destruction of an historic school and its removal from school lists? Hasn’t Ghulja No. 2 High School adhered to the rules of education? Isn’t the school fulfilling the duties of giving knowledge to all human beings? In fact, the school was doing a great job, but the Chinese government didn’t want this to continue. The government didn’t want Uyghurs to obtain an education in a way that is suitable to the Uyghur character and makes Uyghurs successful. Chinese authorities wish to educate people who look like Uyghurs, but who are actually brainwashed followers of their Chinese communist masters. From what has happened to my school and what’s happening to Uyghur education within East Turkestan right now, the truth of implementing ‘bilingual education’ means the formalized, systematic assimilation of Uyghurs to make them Han Chinese.