The Chinese government has been eradicating Xinjiang Uyghurs’ customs and traditions by prohibiting the use of their language, forcing them to eat pork.
by Chang Xin
Forced to eat pork
A Han Chinese teacher who volunteers in southern Xinjiang told Bitter Winter that in May last year, her school launched a special course to indoctrinate Uyghur students with communist ideology and impose on them traditional Han customs, which should replace their Uyghur traditions and culture. One of the imposed new traditions is eating pork.
“The school tells us to teach Uyghur students patriotism and political ideology at the start of each class,” the teacher said. She added that children are forced to celebrate traditional Han Chinese holidays, like Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, and eat customary festival food, rice pudding and moon cakes, respectively. Because these foods are not halal, children have a hard time eating them.
A teacher from a primary school in Xinjiang’s Kashi city remembered how in October 2018, her Uyghur colleagues were taken to a Han cuisine restaurant, where they were forced to eat its specialties—braised pork belly and pork trotters.
“If they refused to eat, they would be labeled as having ideological problems and treated as ‘two-faced persons,’” the teacher told Bitter Winter. “They can even be sent to transformation through education camps.”
Even Uyghur officials are not spared: In April 2019, an ethnic Uyghur was dismissed as the head of a township for refusing to eat pork.
For Uyghurs held in transformation through education camps, the situation is even direr. In November 2018, Kashi city officials ordered to feed pork to all Uyghurs held in the camps, threatening to starve them if they refuse. The order also stipulated that those who eat pork would be given a CCP emblem as proof of their good performance and ideological transformation. A local Uyghur who was recently released from a camp told Bitter Winter that most Uyghurs preferred to starve to death than eat pork, which much irritated the camp authorities.
Uyghur language banned
The CCP also forbids Uyghur teachers and students from using their language and bans all Uyghur books and newspapers on Xinjiang’s campuses.
In January last year, 28 Uyghur teachers from a primary school in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, were all disqualified from teaching positions. According to a staff member, the teachers with the highest qualifications were assigned to guard dormitories and do odd jobs.
Around the same time, a local shop owner was reported for selling notebooks in the Uyghur language and was sent to a five-day class to study the Chinese Constitution, national policies, and regulations on religious beliefs. According to the man, eight other shop owners were in the class because they had words in Uyghur on their signboards.
A Xinjiang resident told Bitter Winter that no signs in Uyghur can be found on his village’s bulletin boards. Even a medical record in Uyghur was confiscated by a community official.
Education in Mandarin only
As the use of the Uyghur language is restricted, school children now have their classes in Mandarin only.
In June 2017, the Education Bureau of Xinjiang’s Hotan city issued a document, ordering all kindergartens, primary and middle schools in Xinjiang to implement educational activities in Mandarin only, aiming to use it in all educational institutions by 2020.
“It’s too late now for them to start studying in Mandarin,” a teacher from Xinjiang’s Kashi was worried about older students. “Unless they study it from a young age, they won’t keep up with courses at all. Some students received zero out of 150 points during the Mandarin examination.”
“The plan is for students in Xinjiang to use the same examination papers as elsewhere in China,” the teacher continued. “Students who used to get a score of 90 for the Uyghur language exam now get 20 in Mandarin. The future of this Uyghur generation is ruined. If students get a zero, the Education Bureau publicly criticizes their volunteer Han teachers and deduct their salary.”
To improve Uyghur students’ study in Mandarin, the teacher’s school makes them study throughout the year, allowing only 20 vacation days. Even during holidays, students are urged to attend intensive Mandarin classes and watch Mandarin cartoons.
Forced learning of Mandarin is infiltrating every village in Xinjiang. “Villagers, young and old, have to meet in the village committee for Mandarin classes for two hours every evening,” Han volunteer teacher in Kashi said. “They also have to take examinations regularly.” The teacher was also forced to participate in the CCP’ “home-stay” program when Han Chinese were sent to live with Uyghurs to transform their ideologies.