[CHRB] Inner Mongolians Detained for Exposing & Protesting Environmental Ruin, Violated Land Rights (5/13-18/2016)Comments Off on [CHRB] Inner Mongolians Detained for Exposing & Protesting Environmental Ruin, Violated Land Rights (5/13-18/2016)
China Human Rights Briefing
May 13-18, 2016
Exposing Polluters & Corruption, Inner Mongolia Activists Detained, Blamed for Villagers’ Protests
Several Inner Mongolian activists, petitioners, and herders have been detained in the past two months after exposing online or protesting industrial pollution and corruption over land rights that have threatened their livelihoods. Six individuals remain in police custody, with one being held incommunicado and, thus, at significant risk of torture. In recent years, the increase in mining and resource extraction in Inner Mongolia has encroached on the traditional nomadic and grasslands lifestyle and livelihoods of ethnic Mongolian herders. In the reported cases since March, herders have drawn public attention to their struggles as one way to defend their socioeconomic and cultural rights.
In Tongliao City, Inner Mongolia, activist Siqinbilige (斯琴毕力格) has been missing since April 12, when police from Jarud Banner (CH: 扎鲁特旗) took him into custody from his home without producing a warrant, according to CHRD’s sources. Public security officials also detained two other individuals, Nashunwuliji (那顺乌力吉) and E’erdeng (额尔登), who they have since released. Siqinbilege is reportedly being held at Huo Linhe Detention Center, but his family has not received a detention notice. Family members have inquired about Siqinbilige’s status at a local police station and government offices, but officials have refused to provide any information.
The detentions are believed to be tied to protests on April 9 in Arikunduleng Township against the Huo Linhe Aluminum Factory. Hundreds of villagers demonstrated against pollution caused by the factory, which is believed to have led to the death and deformity of sheep that grazed on nearby grasslands. Siqinbilege had released a video on April 7 that showed a large number of dead sheep, which reportedly may have spurred the villagers’ protest. Police violently suppressed the protest and detained dozens who participated, and days later took the three men into custody.
In another case tied to disputes over grazing land, 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 Urat plains (CH: 乌拉特) in Bayannur. Urat police seized the five at the protest on unclear charges. Reportedly, police verbally informed the family members that the individuals were administratively detained for 15 days, but issued no written notice. The five are being held at an unknown location. They were among a group of Inner Mongolian herders who had protested and petitioned in Hohhot and Beijing after local government cadres illegally rented collective pastureland to an ethnic Han group from outside the region, and without providing fair compensation. Nearly 400 local villagers signed a petition demanding equitable treatment in land acquisition and compensation.
The five detained are:
- Sarengaowa (萨仁高娃), female, ethnic Mongolian, 60 years old;
- Wu Yanfang (吴艳芳), female, ethnic Mongolian, 57 years old;
- Zhou Yuzhi (周玉芝), female, ethnic Han, 68 years old;
- Autehengsu (敖特恒苏), female, ethnic Mongolian, 52 years old;
- Burenjirigale (布仁吉日嘎乐), male, ethnic Mongolian, 29 years old (disabled).
In another case involving environmental degradation, officials gave seven herdsmen 10-day administrative detentions in March for protesting a polluting zinc and copper smelting plant in Xilin Gol. Over a hundred local villagers petitioned outside the local government offices on March 8. Police in West Ujimqin Banner (CH: 西乌珠穆沁旗) responded by detaining six herders on March 19 and giving them 10-day punishments for “disrupting the order of a work unit” and “disrupting business order.” Authorities detained another herder in relation to the same protest on March 22. It is unclear where these individuals are being held. Local officials subsequently issued a public notice announcing that it was illegal for locals to organize demonstrations using the Internet or mobile phones. China’s draft Cyber-Security Law, if enacted as written, gives the State Council—or governments at lower levels, with approval of the State Council—the authority to restrict network communications. According to the draft, authorities can also take temporary measures in some regions to “fulfill the need to protect national security and social order, and respond to major social [stability] incidents” (Art. 50). So, in essence, the law would allow officials to cut off access to the Internet and other online tools, under the pretext of “maintaining stability.”
This recent string of detentions and squashing of environmental protests in Inner Mongolia are clear acts of government reprisal against the herders’ exercise of free expression and peaceful assembly for the purpose of defending their socio-economic and cultural rights. In 2014, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights called on China to take “all necessary measures” to ensure that ethnic minorities have the right to fully enjoy such rights.
 “Release 5 Rights-Defending Herdspeople from Urat Center Banner, Bayannur, Inner Mongolia” (请释放内蒙古巴彦淖尔盟乌拉特中旗被抓五维权牧民), May 10, 2016, RDN; “Urat Plains, Inner Mongolia 5 Herds People Seized by Police for Defending Rights” (内蒙古自治区乌拉特地区五名牧民因维权遭警方抓捕), May 8, 2016, RDN.
 “Severe Environmental Pollution Impact on West Ujimqin, Inner Mongolia from Xing’an Copper and Zinc Smelting Plant: 7 Herdsmen Administratively Detained for Defending Right to Life and Environmental Rights” (内蒙西乌旗环境遭兴安铜锌冶炼厂严重污染 7牧民为生存权、环境权抗争而遭当局行政拘留), March 23, 2016, RDN.