Inner Mongolia is supposed to enjoy a high degree of self-rule, but Mongolians say the Han Chinese majority hold the power and have been the main beneficiaries of economic development. Mining and development has drawn more Chinese workers into the region, further degraded the grasslands where herders grazed their sheep and cattle and made Mongols feels that their ethnic identity is under threat. [Source: Reuters, June 8, 2011]

Ethnic Mongolians, have complained that their traditional grazing lands have been ruined by mining and desertification, and that the government has tried to force them to settle in permanent houses. One herder told the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “We feel lost without our herds and the grassland.”

Those complaints echo ones from places like Tibet and Xinjiang. But unlike Tibetans in Tibet and Uighurs in Xinjiang, ethnic Mongolians are a small minority, fewer than 20 percent of the 24 million who live in Inner Mongolia. China's Mongolians have rarely taken to the streets, unlike Tibetans or Xinjiang's Uighurs, but they did so in protests in May 2011.

"Tensions in Inner Mongolia have been rising under the surface for many years. These are classic issues that you see in many places related to policies toward minorities," Human Rights Watch Asian researcher Nicholas Bequelin told AP. “We feel like we are being drowned by the Han,” a 21-year-old computer science student at Hohhot Nationality University told the New York Times. “The government always talks about ethnic harmony, but why do we feel so oppressed?” [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, Andrew Jacobs, New York Times]

Resentment Over Chinese Government Policies in Inner Mongolia

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote that government policies in some cases meant to help have further alienated many Mongolians. Limits on the size of herds intended to preserve grazing land are deeply unpopular because they reduce rural incomes, meanwhile mining concessions are given out to Chinese, said Becquelin, the Human Rights Watch researcher. Moves to fence in pastures and relocate herders to more remote areas have backfired by causing overgrazing and making it more difficult to move animal products to market, he said. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, May 31, 2011]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, Here in Damao Banner---banner being the Mongolian equivalent of a county---a decade-long effort to restore grasslands to health by moving thousands of shepherds into towns and cities has helped fuel antigovernment sentiment.The reasons for the land’s decline are a matter of some debate, although many environmentalists say the damming of waterways, coal mining and overgrazing all play a role. But the government’s most ambitious solution, known as ecological migration, focuses solely on the herdsmen, providing subsidies to them---but only after they have sold off their flocks. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 11, 2011]

Mongol Activism

Many of ethnic Mongols in China, who have cultural and ethnic ties with the republic of Mongolia to the north, complain of political and cultural repression by China. Some refer to Inner Mongolia as “Southern Mongolia”. The US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) is a major Mongol activist group. [Source: Agence France-Presse, South China Morning Post, December 12, 2010]

There were some protests in the early 1990s, Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote, “when Mongolia sloughed off its status as a Soviet client state in a peaceful democratic revolution. Some Mongols have fled northward. Some Inner Mongolian exiles and members of an ultranationalist Mongolian political party have staged a sympathy protests in Mongolia's capital of Ulan Bator. Among their demands: protecting pasturelands and securing the indigenous rights of Mongols in Inner Mongolia, in an echo of the Inner Mongolian protesters' calls for preserving the herding lifestyle and strengthening protections for the Mongolian language and traditional Buddhist culture. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, May 31, 2011]

Inner Mongolians who have sought to organize politically have been ruthlessly suppressed. One of the region's best known ethnic nationalists, Hada, just completed a 15-year prison sentence for spying and separatism but remains detained in an undisclosed location.

The Mongol culture bookstore operated by Xinna, the wife of Mongol activist Hada, in the Inner Mongolia capital Hohhot has long been a center of Mongol dissent. It was sealed up when Xinna was taken away by police in December 2010.

Source: Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, an advocacy group in New York.

Mongol Activist

Hada is mainland China’s most prominent ethnic Mongol dissident has. Hada, who like many Mongols goes by one name, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the 1990s on espionage and separatism charges after he advocated greater freedoms for the mainland’s six million Mongols. One of the mainland's longest-jailed prisoners of conscience, Hada fell foul of authorities after writings in which he called for Mongol rights and after organizing peaceful demonstrations as head of the underground Southern Mongolian Democracy Alliance.[Source: Agence France-Presse, South China Morning Post, December 12, 2010]

In December 2010, AFP reported that Hada had been reunited with his family after completing a 15-year prison term, a rights group, but authorities had yet to confirm his release. A few days earlier his fellow activist wife Xinna and their son Uiles disappeared into police custody ahead of the release. Some speculated that authorities were worried Hada’s release could incite his supporters.

Pictures have since been anonymously posted on the overseas human rights news website showing a significantly aged Hada and his family reunited and sharing a meal. The photos, bearing a December 10 timestamp, show the three sitting on a couch with several dishes of food spread out on a table before them.The US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) quoted a sister of Xinna as saying the same pictures were delivered to her by a police official. “These pictures seem to be pretty recent and authentic, but the three are still not set free,” the sister, Naraa, was quoted saying by the group.

China Stops Mongolian Activist Leaving Country

In April 2010, an ethnic Mongolian activist vanished after Chinese authorities prevented him from attending a United Nations forum on indigenous peoples in New York earlier this month, according to a rights group. The U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said that Sodmongol, who like many ethnic Mongolians in China goes by only one name, was arrested at Beijing's airport on April 18, and that his whereabouts remain unknown.[Source: Ben Blanchard and Lucy Hornby, Reuters, April 26, 2010]

He had been invited to attend a session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at U.N. headquarters in New York, the group said in an emailed statement. Police subsequently raided his house in Chaoyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, confiscating computers, mobile phones and documents, the group said.

Sodmongol has been in trouble with the government before, it added, for his involvement with Mongolian language Internet groups which discussed sensitive topics. “As gathering places of ethnic Mongolian intellectuals and students, these Internet sites have been very active in advocating the promotion and protection of ethnic Mongolian peoples' rights to practice their culture, language and tradition,” the group said.

Inner Mongolia Protests in May 2011

In May 2011 in China’s Inner Mongolia region, ethnic Mongolians clashed with security officers in protests over the death of a Mongolian who had been run over by a car driven by an ethnic Han. The herder sought to halt coal trucks trespassing on grasslands and was protesting pollution caused by a nearby coal mine. His death sparked wider demonstrations by ethnic minority Mongolians demanding better protection of their rights and traditions. China normally keeps a tight grip over Inner Mongolia and other strategic border regions including Tibet and Xinjiang, which are home to large numbers of ethnic minorities, as well as being rich in natural resources.

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote: “Calls for justice by Mongols in the resource-rich, prosperous borderland of northern China have shattered the calm there to which Chinese leaders have grown accustomed. Clashes that left two Mongols dead in mid-May triggered protests in several cities and towns last week that have become the largest demonstrations in the Inner Mongolia region in 20 years. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, May 31, 2011]

In Xilinhot, a mining hub not far from where the herder was killed as he and others tried to block a convoy of coal trucks, as many as 2,000 people, many of them students, took to the streets on May 26. Five days later, about 150 protesters marched through the center of Hohhot, the regional capital, despite the presence of thousands of soldiers and paramilitary police officers who kept college students confined to their campuses. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, May 29, 2011]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “the ethnic Mongolian protests that have swept a number of cities are a sobering reminder that government largess, assimilation or an iron fist cannot entirely extinguish the yearnings of some of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, who account for 8 percent of the country’s population. “The Mongolian situation is very worrying for the Chinese leadership because you can’t just throw money at an issue like ethnic identity,” Minxin Pei, a China expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in California, told the New York Times.

Herder Run Over By a Truck: The Trigger for the Inner Mongolia Protests

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote, “The flashpoints for the latest unrest came from the mining boom. On May 10, herders angry at coal haulers for driving over their grazing lands blocked a road and one truck driver struck and killed a herder.”

Mergen’the herder who was killed---had been protesting against pollution caused by a nearby coal mine. "The Mongol herder Mergen, together with 20 others, attempted to block the path of Li Lindong's coal truck, in protest against the noise and dust created by the coal trucks day and night near his village," Xinhua said. "According to police, the truck dragged Mergen for 145 metres and subsequently killed him," the English-language report said.

In another case, Bodeen wrote, “residents in a mining area tried on May 14 to stop a coal mine's operations because of the air and water pollution it was causing. The Mongols got into a fight with the Chinese miners. One of the Mongols was killed after a mine worker drove a forklift truck into his car.--- The Mongols were killed in the remote Xilin Gol area of Inner Mongolia.

Underlying Causes of the Inner Mongolia Protests

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Although the immediate trigger of the demonstrations was a homicide of a Mongolian herder, the underlying enmity can be tied to longstanding grievances; the ecological destruction wrought by an unprecedented mining boom, a perception that economic growth disproportionately benefits the Han and the rapid disappearance of Inner Mongolia’s pastoral tradition. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, May 29, 2011]

On the causes of the protests The Straits Times reported: “The protests in Inner Mongolia were the result of an unfortunate mixture of economic and ethnic grievances, which spilled into public protests after a Mongol herder was run over while trying to block a convoy of coal trucks coming in from the grasslands. The fatality galvanized latent discontent over the mining industry’s penetration of the region. Critics see this as resource exploitation that degrades the steppe environment and erodes the ethnic rights of Mongols, long tied to a nomadic and pastoral culture. The combination could not have been worse: a fatal encounter that symbolized relations between a threatened regional ethnicity and a dominant national system. “[Source: The Straits Times, June 3, 2010]

“The facts are hardly as ominous. Inner Mongolia is a part of the same trajectory of economic development that has transformed China’s fortunes vastly over the past three decades, and mostly for the better. But development has come with costs -- notably over the issue of land rights -- in the region as well as in the rest of the country. Resentment has led to rural protests and occasional outbursts of violence. In Inner Mongolia’s case, however, the ethnic dimension has made a land issue more volatile than it would have been otherwise. Thus, the region belongs to the same category of restive areas as Tibet and Xinjiang, where ethnic dissension escalated to bloodletting in 2008 and 2009, respectively.”

“The government has moved swiftly to defuse tensions by delinking the herder’s killing from larger issues. Arrests have been made in the case and a somewhat public trial was held.” Concurrently, the regional authorities have promised to carry out a serious probe of mines that damage the environment or affect local residents’ interests. Xinhua reports that local work safety watchdogs have been ordered to supervise coal mines stringently to see to it that they employ safe production practices, do not harm the environment, and do not ignore the welfare of local residents. The regional government is also thinking of introducing compensatory schemes for residents and herders who have to put up with the heavy noise and dust generated by the mining and transportation of coal. These are good measures. However, they need to be accompanied by more dialogue between the authorities and groups, particularly students, to defang the idea that Inner Mongolia is an economic colony of China. Beijing has to counter the separatist message.

The stress on economic success that made Chinese leaders complacent and many Mongols satisfied---and a lack of interest in pushing minority rights---is fueling the strains that have burst into the open. "It should not happen that we only focus on the economic development, but care less about the interests of the minority people," Yang Jianxin, an expert on ethnic relations at Lanzhou University in western China, told AP.

▪"The rapid development of resource extraction has resulted in a terrible blow to the interests of the Mongolians," Tumen-ulzii, an ethnic Mongolian Chinese living in exile in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, told Reuters. "People just can't stand it any more," he said. "They have no way of following their traditional way of life. The death of Mergen has become a spark, it has united the whole Mongolian people (in China)." [Source: Reuters, May 27, 2011]

Chinese Government Response Protests in Inner Mongolia

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “The government response has hewed closely to the recipe used to quell the far more violent ethnic turmoil that convulsed Tibet in 2008 and the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang a year later. Internet access has been severely restricted, with most Mongolian Web sites shut down, and scores of students, professors and herders have been taken into custody... The authorities, never shy about baring their teeth, have also rolled out a formidable show of force, cordoning off parks and public squares with paramilitary police and threatening to dismiss government workers who join the rallies. Enhebatu Togochog, an exiled human rights advocate, has described the crackdown as a “witch hunt.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, May 29, 2011]

AP reported: “Authorities poured more police into the streets and slowed Internet service in several parts of China's Inner Mongolia, trying to head off more protests. Large numbers of police patrolled the regional capital, Hohhot, especially around the main square, where Internet messages over the weekend urged people to gather in protest Monday, people reached by phone said. In Chifeng city, where a rights group said hundreds protested Sunday, police were everywhere, residents reached by phone said. People in both cities complained that the Internet was inaccessible or slow. "We lost access to the Internet. And there's no point in going to the Internet cafes since they have suspended business because the Internet is down there too," said a waitress at the Laozhuancun restaurant around the corner from government offices in Chifeng.” [Source: AP, May 29, 2011]

The events in Inner Mongolia seem to have rattled Chinese leaders, who have long battled ethnic unrest by Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang but who have seen Inner Mongolia as a model, its economy booming and its Mongols integrated into the mainstream. After the early protests, President Hu Jintao gathered the Communist Party's powerful Politburo to discuss what it said is the urgent need to reduce social tensions and promote fairness.

Trying to calm tensions, Inner Mongolia's Communist Party chief took the unusual step of meeting with students and teachers in a town that staged one of the largest protests last week. At the meeting, Hu Chunhua promised swift punishment to perpetrators in two cases in the Xilin Gol area that angered local residents, the state-run Inner Mongolia Daily reported. Though he did not specify, the two cases Hu is understood to be referring to were the herder's death and the death of a resident in a mining area over a coal mine dispute. Local authorities had earlier this week announced arrests in both cases. "Teachers and students, please rest assured that the suspects will be punished severely and quickly, in accordance with legal procedures, to resolutely safeguard the dignity of the law and rights of the victims and their families," the report cited Hu as saying.

The strategy appeared to thwart a major demonstration in the regional capital of Hohhot, though a witness said students attempted to protest in one place but were turned back by police. Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Calls for a protest here went unanswered, students were kept inside their campuses and Web sites and social networks were interrupted. But about 150 demonstrators marched through downtown Hohhot, chanting slogans in Mongolian, blocking traffic and unfurling a banner before being dispersed by riot police.

Clampdown on Students in Inner Mongolia

According to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, an advocacy group in New York, the police have been summoning students who sent out multiple text messages about the protests. Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, “One student in Hohhot, who dashed off a similar note on QQ, a popular instant messaging program, was promptly picked up by the authorities, the group said. Another student who made his way to the Monday protest said he was desperately trying to get a doctor’s note to explain his disappearance from campus. Although news about the turmoil has been scrubbed from the Web, local Communist Party officials and the police have been painting the protesters as subversives intent on fanning ethnic disunity. Asked about the demonstrations on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu echoed that theme, blaming unnamed overseas forces for stirring up the trouble. “Their attempts are doomed to failure,” she said during a regular news briefing. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

Thousands of Mongolian students were penned up for five days to prevent them from taking to the streets. Authorities blocked entrances and exits to at least a half-dozen campuses. School officials promised to eject from school anyone caught protesting or even escaping from campus. One exasperated administrator at Inner Mongolia University told the New York Times no one at school knew when the sequestering might end. “Everyone just has to be patient.”

“According to the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “Home to thousands of Mongolian students, major schools, colleges and universities in Hohhot have been under heavy guard by riot police and paramilitary forces. Students were closely monitored by their teachers and security personnel inside the campuses.”[Source: Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center, May 30, 2011]

“There are at least three layers of security here in my school. The first and outermost layer is the riot police and paramilitary forces encircling the entire campus; the second and middle layer is the security personnel guarding the major entrances inside and outside; the third and innermost layer is the security personnel who guard all entrances of dormitory and academic buildings,” a Mongolian professor from the Inner Mongolia University who was ordered to carry out guard duty over students told SMHRIC in a brief phone interview, “we are ordered to have our lunch inside the campus, and not allowed to leave the office until further notice.

“The Inner Mongolia Normal University posted an “important notice” on May 30, 2011, to warn all the teachers and students of all high schools and colleges not to leave the school according to an urgent notice received from “higher authorities.” Notices and warnings are circulating widely not only in schools, but in many companies and institutions where the number of Mongolians are relatively large. All government employees are warned that they would be removed from their posts if they participate in any sort of public discussion or join any protest.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, “An official document circulating on the Internet says the open-ended confinement of college and some high school students, is designed to “isolate bad people,” weed out the hostile and the subversive among the study body and ultimately ‘safeguard our regime while protecting the achievements of the opening up policy.” School officials have promised to eject from school anyone caught protesting or even escaping from campus. Reached by phone on Wednesday, an exasperated administrator at Inner Mongolia University said no one at school knew when the sequestering might end. “Everyone just has to be patient,” he said. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

‘shiliin-gol League where the first demonstration erupted a week ago has been put under extremely tight paramilitary and police control. None of more than 40 detainees have been released. At least two more young Mongolians were arrested in Right Ujumchin Banner on May 30, for sending photos of the protests out to overseas human rights organizations and news media; two more Mongolian teachers were arrested on the same day in Shiliin-hot city for supporting and encouraging students to take to the streets.

‘sources revealed paramilitary personnel have been ordered to carry out a door-to-door search for protest participants in Mongolian neighborhoods in Shiliin-gol League. Local government officials were dispatched to Mongolian households to carry out so-called “ideological work” to persuade the Mongolians not to join any future protests.

Life Inside the Campuses During Clampdown on Universities in Inner Mongolia

Universities and colleges in Hohhot were in lockdown. Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, “Wireless signal-blocking devices---four-stories tall and clearly visible from the street---have been playing havoc with cellphone reception. Despite the official state of emergency, classes have been taking place as usual, although Internet access has been cut and wireless signal-blocking devices---four-stories tall and clearly visible from the street---have been playing havoc with cellphone reception. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

‘students, especially at overwhelmingly Mongolian schools, have not been entirely quiescent. On Sunday, students at three colleges staged impromptu protests on campus after being blocked from leaving, according to students. At Inner Mongolia University, students showed their displeasure by tossing Chinese-language textbooks out classroom and dormitory windows.

According to the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “An interesting development of the protest is that those Mongolian students who were confined to their campuses carried out in-campus protests in major universities including the Inner Mongolia University, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot Nationality University and some high schools, to express their defiance. Those students who were locked up in their classrooms and dormitories threw Chinese language textbooks through windows to protest the authorities’ action. [Source: Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center, May 30, 2011]

Student Response to Clampdown in Inner Mongolia

Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, “In interviews, some of which took place through the wrought-iron fences surrounding their campuses, several students objected to such characterizations, saying they were driven to protest by news of the death of Mergen, the shepherd killed by a coal-filled truck on May 15, and by stories about the ecological destruction wrought by Chinese-owned mines. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

But their passion quickly turned to more esoteric matters: the disappearance of the region’s ancient grazing culture and pride in an identity that has been diluted by decades of migration from other parts of China. “I’m tired of seeing my language disappear while all these banners at school shout about promoting the Mongolian tongue,” said Naranbaatar, a history student at Hohhot Nationality University who like many Mongolians uses one name. Another student, speaking by cellphone, said students were becoming increasingly agitated. “We are not sheep or cows,” said the student, who described himself as Xiao Ming, a Chinese name. “The longer they keep us locked away, the angrier we will become.

The restrictions, however, are not ironclad. Students able to produce a train or plane ticket can get an exit pass, but only after gaining the signatures of three university officials---their dean, their department head and the university’s all-powerful Communist Party secretary. On Tuesday night, Yao Xiaolu, 24, emerged triumphantly from Inner Mongolia Finance and Economics College with a suitcase in hand, having secured a plane ticket that would take her to a summer job in Beijing. Although administrators had not articulated the reasons behind the protests or the restrictions, Ms. Yao, an international trade major who is Han, described the rallies as a “rebellion”---evidence that the official propaganda has been somewhat effective. “Most students I know aren’t interested in rioting,” she said. “Right now the main thing is everyone is just bored.”

Government Disinformation and Protests in Hohhot

At the time of the protests Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, An official document circulating on the Internet says the open-ended confinement of college and some high school students, is designed to “isolate bad people,” weed out the hostile and the subversive among the study body and ultimately ‘safeguard our regime while protecting the achievements of the opening up policy.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

According to the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “Text messages from the authorities are warning residents to stay indoors due to possible violence on the streets,” a professor of the Inner Mongolia Normal University, told SMHRIC over the phone, “every few minutes we receive similar text messages.” According to another source, Chinese authorities in Hohhot are intentionally spreading a rumor that the Mongols are attempting to bomb the building of Inner Mongolia TV Station immediately next to the Xinhua Square, the location of the proposed protest.” [Source: Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center, May 30, 2011]

“This is not a good sign. The authorities are trying to fabricate a pretext for a crackdown on the protesters,” a Mongolian college student told SMHRIC in an email statement, “at the same time, the authorities are not hesitant to spread word of harsh clampdown and “serious consequences” if there are any protests.

“In Tongliao City, home to the largest Mongolian population among all leagues and municipalities, students and teachers were confined to their schools. Police reinforcements were dispatched from lower level administrative units including banners and counties to Tongliao City to help avert any possible uprising there. Local government workers were dispatched to Mongolian communities to carry out propaganda work in an attempt to convince the Mongols about the favorable aspects of China’s ethnic policy.”

“They are doing this in all banners and counties of Tongliao. On the one hand they are trying to fool the Mongolians with their ethnic policy,” a Mongolian dissident and activist who has been put under home confinement for several days in Tongliao City’s Naiman Banner told SMHRIC over the phone, “on the other hand they threaten to crack down on any sort of protests of the Mongolians if we do not listen to them.

Martial Law is Declared in Inner Mongolia

Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee of Reuters wrote: “Chinese authorities sealed off parts of the northern region of Inner Mongolia in what residents described as martial law, to try to quell a fifth day of protests by ethnic Mongolians over the death of a herder in a hit-and-run accident. Residents in Shuluun Huh Banner, or Zheng Lan Qi in Chinese, and Left Ujumchin Banner, or Xi Wu Qi in Chinese, near Inner Mongolia's Xilinhot city, told Reuters that martial law was imposed.” [Source: Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters, May 27 2011]

"There was martial law declared this morning," said one resident of Shuluun Huh Banner who gave her name as Tana. "It's still ongoing with fewer guards right now, but some police are on the street." Despite this, hundreds of Mongolians defied the tighter security and marched towards the government building in Shuluun Huh Banner before noon, said Enghebatu Togochog of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre.

"Students have been locked up in their schools and they aren't allowed to join in their protests," Togochog said, adding that one or two high schools and several middle schools have been sealed off. "It has been in a state of siege since this morning, everything was fine here yesterday," said a resident surnamed Zhou in Ujumchin Banner. "At the moment, police are patrolling the street." An official in the bus station near the government building in Left Ujumchin Banner, who refused to give her name, said all buses had stopped since the morning because of martial law.

Protests in Inner Mongolia After Martial Law is Declared

According to the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “On the morning of May 30, 2011, around 11:00 AM, despite the Chinese authorities’ declaration of martial law and deployment of riot police and paramilitary forces in major cities of Southern (Inner) Mongolia, hundreds of Mongolians took to the streets of Hohhot, regional capital, to demand the rights of Mongolians and the release of detainees. Reportedly the protesters were dispersed by riot police after an hour with dozens arrested.” [Source: Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center, May 30, 2011]

According to the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center: “Some sources said nearly a thousand Mongolians, mainly ordinary residents of Hohhot city, joined the protest and marched toward the government building while authorities operated under the highest alert conditions. An unconfirmed report from Duowei News, an overseas Chinese news agency, said a government official told its correspondent in Hohhot that fewer than 10 protesters were killed as authorities dispersed the crowd in front of the Government building. The report also stated that the Chinese authorities suspect that “foreign hostile forces” are behind the protests.” [Source: Southern Mongolia Human Rights Center, May 30, 2011]

According to a Hong Kong TVB News video report in Cantonese, on May 30, additional paramilitary forces were deployed from Bogt (Baotou in Chinese) City to Hohhot to control the Mongolian protests (see the video clip below). Major colleges including the Hohhot Nationality University were placed under heavy guard and the city’s main square, the Chinggis Khan Square was sealed off.

Reporting from Hohhot, Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, “As riot police officers pounced on ethnic Mongolian protesters on Monday, hauling at least a dozen into waiting vehicles, a young college student took refuge at a nearby cafe, shivering with fear. He checked a metal teapot for imaginary listening devices and glanced repeatedly at the door while explaining how soldiers had prevented thousands of his fellow students at Hohhot Nationality University from joining the rally. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

“First they shut down our Internet, then they interrupted our cellphone service and finally they imprisoned us at school,” one student told the New York Times. He was not on campus when the lockdown took effect. “The students are afraid, but more than that, they are angry.” Such sentiments are not confined to students. During one of several unwelcome confrontations with the police last week, a Mongolian officer in Damao sidled up to a stranger and made a startling confession. He said he wished he had been brave enough to join the protests. “The anger I feel,” he said with a conspiratorial grin, “is burning through my veins.”

About 30 Inner Mongolian exiles and members of an ultranationalist Mongolian political party staged a sympathy protests in the Mongolia's capital of Ulan Bator. Among their demands: protecting pasturelands and securing the indigenous rights of Mongols in Inner Mongolia, in an echo of the Inner Mongolian protesters' calls for preserving the herding lifestyle and strengthening protections for the Mongolian language and traditional Buddhist culture. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, May 31, 2011]

Truck Driver Who Triggered Inner Mongolia Protests Sentenced to Death

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “In an unusually prompt trial---apparently a reflection of Chinese leaders’ fears of further unrest---a Xilinhot court handed down a death sentence to the Han driver convicted of running down Mergen, the Mongolian herdsman. The trial, which lasted six hours, according to the official Xinhua news agency, also yielded stiff sentences for three other men involved in the episode. The authorities said they planned to quickly try another Han driver accused of killing an activist with a forklift during a confrontation between the two groups at a coal mine several days later. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 11, 2011]

State news agency Xinhua said coal truck driver Li Lindong will be executed "for using his vehicle to kill" Mergen (the herder). His co-driver, also a Han Chinese, was sentenced to life imprisonment at the court in Xilinhot. The tough sentences, announced immediately after the six-hour trial ended, underscores the government's determination to show it takes seriously the concerns of the ethnic Mongolians, and that it wants to avoid any more unrest. Xinhua The report said the trial was attended by about 160 people, including relatives of Mergen.” [Source: Reuters, June 8, 2011]

“Xinhua said local residents were "still fuming" over Mergen's death, but his wife Uzhina and brother Bayar had been satisfied with the government's response to the case. "We saw justice from the result, and I believe that herders from the West Ujimqin Banner will be happy with the result as well," Xinhua quoted Bayar as saying, referring to the epicentre of the protests. But local official Ding Ruilian expressed sympathy for Li, the driver, saying she felt "heart-struck for the lack of legal awareness of youngsters like (him)".

Addressing the Grievances of the Inner Mongolia Protesters

The swiftness of the response highlights how worried Chinese leaders are. At Politburo meeting held after the initial protests Chinese leaders said that easing social tensions and promoting fairness is critical. "Solving these problems is both urgent and demands long-term effort," they said. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, May 31, 2011]

Reuters reported: “Beijing, ever worried by threats to stability, is now trying to address some of the protesters' broader concerns about the damage done by coal mining to traditional grazing lands. The authorities have since launched a month-long overhaul of the lucrative coal mining industry, vowing to clean up or close polluters.” [Source: Reuters, June 8, 2011]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in New York Times, in the midst of the protests “officials of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have sought to stanch them through a classically Chinese carrot-and-stick approach to ethnic instability. They have announced a raft of lavishly financed development projects. The government this week added to the menu of appeasements, promising to spend $308 million, to promote Mongolian culture and another $200 million, on student subsidies. Officials announced a monthlong overhaul of the region’s lucrative coal industry “to ensure safe production practices, protect the environment, and address the welfare of local residents,” Xinhua, the state news agency, reported. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 1, 2011]

For the longer term, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Officials have vowed to correct abuses of the coal industry, among them unregulated strip mining and trucks that career over the fragile steppe. The government has also committed to broader changes, promising hundreds of millions of dollars for education, environmental protection and the promotion of Mongolian culture.But it is unclear if the swift action will still resentments that have simmered despite Inner Mongolia’s fast-expanding economy---the growth rate has topped that of all other provinces since 2002---and affirmative action policies that have provided tens of thousands of government jobs to ethnic Mongolians. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, June 11, 2011]

South Mongolia Internet Campaign

In September 2013, 52 netizens were arrested for "spreading rumors", "sensationalizing conflicts", and "stirring up ethnic relations" in connection with Mongolian activism. According to SMHRIC: China has launched a major new “Strike Hard” campaign against Internet freedom in Southern (Inner) Mongolia. At least 52 more netizens have been arrested for “creating and spreading rumors”, according to a statement issued by the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau on August 29, 2013. [Source: Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), September 4, 2013 ^^]

“The statement was published on the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau official website under the heading “Inner Mongolian police arrested 52 criminal suspects who created and spread rumors via the Internet”. The statement calls the 52 netizens “criminal suspects” who are blamed for distributing more than 1200 pieces of information mainly of “Internet rumors and false reports of disaster, epidemic, and police emergency”. “Upholding the principle of ‘strike, investigate and punish group by group’, this round of special operation further traces the clue, deepens the investigation, digs deeper to unearth organized rumor networks, accurately strikes the major targets, strikes hard and deters these criminal activities in order to protect the legal rights of the broad masses,” the statement concludes. ^^

According to Xinhua News, of the 52 “criminal suspects” who were arrested, “21 were held in police administrative detention, 10 fined, 3 warned, 18 educated and reprimanded.” “Some even sensationalized the conflicts that occurred during the development process in Inner Mongolia, deliberately stirring up ethnic relations, encouraging the masses to appeal for their interests in a radical way such as student strikes and protest demonstrations,” the Xinhua article says. The article also reveals that this round of “Strike Hard” campaign is “implemented by the Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau in response to the request from the Autonomous Region leaders and the consolidated deployment by the Public Security Ministry”. The goal of this campaign is to “establish a long-term mechanism for suppressing Internet rumors”, according to the article. ^^

Shortly before this major crackdown, similar events were also reported by the Chinese Public Security authorities in Southern Mongolia. Mr. Yang Xiaoping, Deputy Director of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau, told the Chinese official news agency China Broadcast Network on August 13, 2013 that 23 netizens were “punished” for “spreading rumors” related to “China’s plan to relocate earthquake victims from Sichuan Province to Inner Mongolia”. Among the 23 netizens, “1 was held in criminal detention, 10 held in administrative detention, 2 fined, 1 given administrative warning, and 6 students educated and reprimanded”, according to Yang Xiaoping. “Most of these netizens disseminate these information out of ethnic sentiment,” Yang Xiaoming told the China Broadcast Network about the background of arrested Mongolian netizens, “however, through our investigation we found out that some netizens have ulterior motives and are trying to make some trouble to the society.” ^^

“On August 12, 2013, another official news agency, the Inner Mongolia Daily reported that the Public Security Bureau of Chifeng Municipality “punished” 15 netizens. Of them “8 were given administrative detention, 2 fined, 1 warned, and 4 educated and reprimanded for spreading rumor” on China’s “plan for relocating 1 million Chinese from the earthquake stricken province of Sichuan to Inner Mongolia”. On May 19, 2013, Hulun-boir Daily, an official news agency of Hulun-boir Municipality, reported that the Municipality Public Security Bureau “punished” 14 netizens “in accordance with the law”. Of them, “4 were given administrative detention and 10 were educated and reprimanded” for spreading “rumors” such as “Mongolian herder of New Barag Right Banner committed suicide in desperate shortage of hay for his livestock”. On April 26, 2013, Tongliao Daily, an official news agency of Tongliao Municipality, reported that 5 netizens were arrested and detained by the Tongliao Municipality Public Security Bureau for merely posting and disseminating information on the 5.3 degree earthquake of Horchin Left Rare Banner through the Internet. ^^

Image Sources: You Tube

Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) \=/; 5), the Chinese government news site | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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