China and Mongolia are permanent neighbors and should “refrain from interfering” in each other’s internal affairs, said a statement by Beijing after the country’s foreign minister paid a visit to the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.

The statement released by Beijing comes as locals in China’s autonomous Inner Mongolia region expressed resentment over Beijing’s new language policy in the region.

“Both sides should continue to strengthen political mutual trust, consolidate the political foundation of bilateral relations, in particular respect each other’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs,” said the statement.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Mongolian counterpart Nyamtseren Enkhtaivan in Ulan Bator on Tuesday.

“This is not only a political commitment when the two countries established diplomatic relations, but also a basic norm of international relations. Therefore, it should become an ‘anchor’ for the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations,” Beijing said.

The visit came after China changed the language of education from Mongolian to Mandarin Chinese in Inner Mongolia, with a particular reference to three subjects, Mongolian language and literature, moral and legal education, and history.

The change applies to students from the first grade of primary school.

According to daily South China Morning Post, dozens of protestors in traditional Mongolian garb held demonstrations in Ulan Bator’s main square calling for the protection of their mother tongue.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency from Taiwan, academic Chien-Yu Shih said: “This language policy change has to do with the introduction of the so-called Second Generation Ethnic policy [of China], which can be traced back to probably 15 years ago and was an intellectual debate on the strategy to successfully develop a single Chinese identity, instead of having so many divergent ethnic minority identities.”

Chien-Yu was, until recently, teaching in Hong Kong and returned to Taiwan after China imposed national security law. He now serves as an adjunct professor of international relations at the National Tsinghua University, Taiwan.

“Inner Mongolia has kept this traditional Mongolian written form for long; Outer Mongolia’s language reform certainly would have aroused Beijing’s attention,” he added.

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