The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reportedly demanded that the words “Genghis Khan,” “Mongol” and “Empire” not be used in the exhibit about Ghenghis Khan’s Mongol Empire, which had been slated to open at the Château des ducs de Bretagne history museum in Nantes, France.
The museum says China also tried to rewrite the entire historical exhibit to fit the CCP’s national narrative and sought to control everything from texts and maps to brochures.
“We are now forced to postpone this exhibition until October 2024 due to the hardening, this summer, of the Chinese government’s position against the Mongol minority,” museum director Bertrand Guillet said in a statement.
“We made the decision to stop this production in the name of the human, scientific and ethical values we defend.”
The museum had originally planned to host the “Sons of the Sky and the Steppes” exhibit in collaboration with the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China. However, Guillet says the Chinese Bureau of Cultural Heritage started pressing for changes to the exhibit, “including notably elements of biased rewriting of Mongol culture in favour of a new national narrative.”
The warlord known as Genghis Khan united several Mongol tribes into an army, then proceeded to conquer large portions of Asia in the early 1200s. Khan spent many years spreading his influence and his DNA, to the point where he is thought to have about 16 million male descendants alive today, according to a 2003 study. That’s about 0.5 per cent of the global male population.
In other words, he’s a hard guy to scrub out of the gene pool or the history books.
China has been accused of using heavy-handed measures to control its minorities in recent years, including wiping out their historical contributions and suppressing their languages and cultures in favour of the dominant Han majority.
Among the CCP’s most persecuted targets have been the Uighurs, a minority-Muslim population based primarily in the western province of Xinjiang. Chinese officials have put millions of Uighurs in internment camps and have installed members of the ethnic Han majority in Uighur homes to ensure the Uighurs don’t practise their religion, according to reports and leaked records from the country.
Ethnic Mongols became government targets earlier this summer when protests and school boycotts broke out in the province of Inner Mongolia. Mongols were upset by a new policy that forced all schools to teach politics, history and literature in Mandarin instead of the local language. The same strategy had previously been used in Xinjiang and Tibet.
China also has its own tightly-controlled version of the internet, which allows the government to censor all sorts of content it deems worthy of suppressing. The ruling CCP has banned a wide variety of topics, from the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square to depictions of Winnie the Pooh, the Disney character that has been used in the past to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Scholars have come out to support the French museum’s decision to postpone the exhibit in light of China’s actions, France 24 reports.
“The Chinese regime bans historical accounts that do not correspond to its official account, and tries to impose it abroad,” Valerie Niquet, an Asia specialist at France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, tweeted on Monday in response to the story.
Guillet says the museum will restructure the exhibit and add more elements from Europe and the Americas before opening it in 2024.
—With files from The Associated Press