China Holds Six Pollution, Land Protesters in Inner Mongolia

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on May 18, 2016

Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia are still holding six people in the wake of recent disputes over land grabs and pollution in the region, where ethnic minority groups and Han Chinese alike have said their health and livelihoods are threatened.

Ethnic Mongolian herder Saikhanbileg was detained by police from Zaruud banner amid an ongoing protest over pollution from an aluminum smelting plant near Ar-Hundelen township, just across the administrative border in Urad banner, rights activist Xinna said in a recent blog post.

Fellow Ar-Hundelen herders Erdan and Nasanulzei were detained at the same time and later released. They had posted photos and video of sick and dying sheep online.

Saikhanbileg is believed to be in the Huo Linhe Detention Center near Tongliao city, Xinna said.

“Under huge pressure from the local government, the people of Ar-Hundelen and the whole of Zaruud banner are waiting to see what happens next,” Xinna wrote in a May 14 blog post.

“We call on the government not to try to hoodwink local people … and to deal with them reasonably instead,” Xinna, who is the wife of veteran ethnic Mongolian activist Hada, wrote.

“We should speak out about the pollution from the Linhe Alumina smelting plant, which has severely polluted the surrounding area, leading to mass deaths in sheep flocks there,” she said in a post on the Weiquanwang rights blog.

The Ar-Hundelen detentions follow several weeks of protests by local people in a long-running dispute over widespread pollution from aluminum smelters.

Five others held

Meanwhile, authorities in Inner Mongolia’s Bayannur region are holding five people after a group of local people protested the loss of their grazing land in the regional capital Hohhot, an overseas rights group reported.

Five herders—four women and one man—remain in police custody after a demonstration on May 5 against forced appropriation of local land and official corruption in the Urad plains in Bayannur,” the  Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) networkreported on its website on Wednesday.

“Urad police seized the five at the protest on unclear charges,” it said, naming the detainees as Sarengawa, 60, Wu Yanfang, 57, Zhou Yuzhi, 68, Othensu, 52, and Buurenzirgal, 60.

Local herders confirmed the report.

“They have detained them on 15-day administrative detentions after the herders went and protested the takeover of our land and called for the released of detained herders outside the banner government on May 9,” one herder said.

Another activist, Kaishingaa, said the authorities had declined to respond to the requests for the herders’ release.

“They didn’t give any response at all,” Kaishingaa said. “I wonder if it’s even possible for ordinary citizens to protect our personal rights.”

Many left homeless

A third local resident said 70 or 80 people had been left homeless by the land grab.

“There are still 70 or 80 people who haven’t been allocated housing,” he said. “They have been to complain at the government, but they haven’t had any response.”

The group had begun petitioning after local government cadres illegally rented collective pastureland to an ethnic Han group from outside the region without providing fair compensation,  CHRD said.

“Nearly 400 local villagers signed a petition demanding equitable treatment in land acquisition and compensation,” the group said.

Similar protests to those in Ar-Hundelen have also been seen in Shiliingol in the west of the region near the Mongolian border,  CHRD said.

Seven herders from West Uzumchin banner were handed 10-day administrative jail terms following a pollution protest over a zinc and copper smelting plant in March.

The herders were jailed by police for “disrupting the order of a work unit” and “disrupting business order,”  CHRD said.

Local officials have also warned herders off using the internet or smartphones to organize demonstrations, it said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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