Southern Mongolia – Human rights information
On November 30, 2013, 17 Mongolian herders from western Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Urad Middle Banner were expelled from Beijing. They had spent the previous 12 days submitting appeals to Central Government authorities, attempting to solicit support from the Chinese State Council Letter and Visitation Bureau and the Ministry of Agriculture to restrain local government officials and Chinese miners from illegally occupying their grazing lands. Dispatches from the local Urad Middle Banner government and the Public Security authorities carried out the expulsion of the protesting herders from Beijing. The herders are currently confined to their communities and barred from communications with higher government authorities.
According to written communications received by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), the herders are protesting: 1. illegal land expropriation and land sale by local government officials to the Chinese; 2. destruction of the herders’ grazing land by Chinese miners and military bases; 3. the government’s failure to provide adequate redress and compensation to the affected herders.
“We have been protesting for more than 7 years in order to defend our grazing lands from the illegal occupations and expropriations by the Chinese,” Ms.Odongerel, a herdswoman from Urad Middle Banner told SMHRIC in a phone interview, “we are still continuing our protests.”
As an organizer of the herders’ protests, Odongeral was arrested, detained and jailed multiple times by the Urad Middle Banner Public Security Bureau. On November 15, 2012, she was sentenced to a year and half of reeducation through labor for organizing herders to stage protests in front of the local governments and in Beijing.
“I was sentenced to 1.5 years in reeducation through labor last November, and thrown into a labor camp in Hohhot along with many drug convicts,” Odongerel told SMRHIC over the phone, “and I was released on April 16, 2013 thanks to our fellow herders’ pressure on the government”.
“On one occasion I was arrested and detained in a military base near the border with the independent country of Mongolia for 10 days for organizing the herders to protest the military base’s illegal occupation of our grazing land,” Ordongerel added.
The communication also documented the death of a Mongolian herder named Ms.Erdenetuyaa who was run over by a car on a street in Beijing as she was protesting along with the other herders.
“As an outspoken critic of illegal land grab, Erdenetuyaa was killed by a car in Beijing while we were crossing a street,” Odongerel told SMHRIC.
“We herders consider this was not a traffic accident, but an intentional killing,” Odongerel expressed her anger and revealed that the Chinese authorities negotiated with the victim’s family immediately and offered 930,000 yuan (approximately 153,000 USD) as compensation to the family.
“If this was a traffic accident, the government would have not been that nervous, and the poor herder’s family would have not been paid 930,000 yuan,” Odongerel expressed her doubt.
Mr. Burenzayaa, another community leader from the same Banner, confirmed the death of Erdenetuyaa in Beijing, and revealed how the family members of the victim were silenced on the case.
“Yes, Erdenetuyaa lost her life in Beijing, and her family members have been pressured by the authorities not to pursue any legal action. The case was completely closed after the family members were paid the compensation,” Burenzayaa told SMHRIC in a phone interview.
According to Burenzayaa, this year alone, the herders have staged multiple protests and sit-ins near the Banner government building in Haliut Township. Riot police and security personnel poured into Haliut Township to put down the herders’ protests. Dozens of herders were arrested, beaten and detained in July and August as hundreds of herders carried out days of sit-ins.
“From seven year old kids to seventy year olds, herders from all part of the Banner gathered to protest the illegal expropriation of our grazing lands and the government’s failure to redress our grievances,” Burenzayaa said in the interview.
“A seven-year old orphan girl was left alone at the sit-in after her grandmother who lived with her was taken away by police,” Burenzanyaa commented over the phone on the picture of the young girl left unattended, “when she asked a policeman where her grandmother is, the policeman mockingly told her that her grandmother is dancing at a dance party.”
As the Chinese Communist Party Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee approached, the Chinese authorities tightened up their surveillance over the herders’ communities in the Banner. On November 4, two herders, Mr.Davharaa and Mr.Tsetsengaa were taken away from their homes and detained for three days with no judicial process or legal explanation.
“This time our 17 herders’ representatives went to Beijing and tried to appeal to the Central Government for a just solution to our grievances,” Burenzayaa said disappointedly, “unfortunately our appeals are still ignored and the government of Urad Middle Banner shows no sign of returning our lands or compensating us for our losses.”
Mr. Gansukh, an elderly Mongolian herder in his 70s from the same Banner, told SMHRIC in a phone interview that his grazing lands as well as that of his relatives were recently occupied by Chinese settlers.
“This is our land. We have lived here for generations and generations as herders. Now all of sudden, our ancestral lands are taken away by outsiders,” Gansukh expressed his outrage.
“What is most outrageous is that many of our herders have been changed to ‘others’ on their household registration cards, becoming neither urban nor rural population, but outsiders on our own lands,” Gansukh added.