It seems Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR) is the new target of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Sinicization program as it deceitfully embarks on ‘Inculcating Chinese Nationality Common Identity’ among six million ethnic population of IMAR. Mongolian language programs/sculptures/books/art forms are being gradually ‘eliminated’ from public space with wide ranging prohibitions/restrictions placed on their production, circulation and dissemination.
In a recent incident, Chinese authorities reportedly banned a Mongolian theatre release “Mongol Khan” just 30 minutes prior to its official grand opening at Honhot’s Ulaan Theatre in IMAR. Notably, “Mongol Khan” is a globally acclaimed theatrical spectacle which is also scheduled to release (Nov. 17- Dec. 02) at prestigious Coliseum in London’s West End. It is a lavish revival of a 1998 play by Mongolian writer/poet B. Lkhagvasuren and is sponsored by Mongolian government to promote tourism by enticing potential travelers with a reveling slice of history/culture. A semi-fictional narrative set 2000 years ago towards dawn of Hunnic Empire (Huns), it grand stands heroic exploits of Archug Khan who sets out curating an ‘all powerful and dominating’ dynasty.
The play, which was slated to be performed over a period of three days (Sep 19-21), was abruptly blocked by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials in a slimy manner, shutting down power and physically blocking 130 production staff from accessing theatrical services. Unconfirmed sources indicate that artists and production workers were suddenly shoved away by Chinese officials without explanation, reasons or prior warning. The crew was not even allowed to retrieve $3.8 million worth of set material, props and technical equipment set up from the theater building. Later, 1300 spectators were also ordered to leave through a public message delivered over speakers. Theatre-goers/audience stood perplexed while being turned away by local authorities without explanation as no refunds were allowed for thousands of tickets booked in advance. Interestingly, Honhot leg of international performance rendezvous of “Mongol Khan” was initially approved by Chinese authorities to be unexpectedly banned on September 19, 2023.
It is alleged that even before September 19, entire ensemble of production, support and performance teams were subjected to great discomfort throughout their brief period of stay in IMAR. Significantly, 130 team members including six British nationals were made to spend two weeks at an alternate location in the town of Ordos where they were put under constant surveillance. Members of performance team were also banned from brandishing ‘traditional Mongolian costumes/dresses anywhere during dry-runs or local marketing excursions.
Pertinently, concerned Mongolian government agencies are also distraught over this uncouth saga as they had invested heavily in “Mongol Khan” theatrics as part of an international public relations campaign to pull investments and tourism.
Abrupt and uncalled for shutdown of a fabled historical drama is in sync with ‘creeping’ Chinese state’s machinations at play in IMAR, colloquially referred to as Southern Mongolia. These antics are directed to deprive ethnic Mongolians of any potential rallying point, drawn or inspired from historical-cultural identity as eulogized in “Mongol Khan”.
Though the Chinese government maintains that its policies have benefited IMAR, in reality its policies have only threatened IMAR’s unique and centuries-old culture. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Chinese policies in IMAR have only resulted in the disappearance of elements of IMAR’s culture and therefore, may be termed as ‘cultural genocide’.