Tensions flared across the vast grassland region bordering Mongolia and Russia after the policy was announced by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau last Wednesday.
Mass demonstrations involving parents, students and ordinary citizens have erupted across the region, according to video clips provided by residents to AFP, while thousands of students have boycotted classes.
In some clips, scores of uniformed students can be heard shouting in Mongolian: “I swear to death that I will always learn my mother tongue.”
“There are at least tens of thousands of people protesting across Inner Mongolia,” said Baatar, a 27-year-old herder in the Hinggan League area who refused to give his name because of security concerns.
As of Tuesday, several bilingual boarding schools in Hinggan League and nearby Tongliao city were surrounded by hundreds of paramilitary police to prevent children who were already enrolled from leaving, Baatar added.
Several parents were beaten and arrested by police late Monday during a demonstration outside his sister’s school in Horqin Right Front Banner, Baatar said.
AFP’s calls to local bilingual schools went unanswered.
Locals said parents also faced widespread pressure from police to send their children to school, with pupils threatened with expulsion if they did not attend.