Southern Mongolia: Under Round-the-clock Monitoring, Long-standing Human Rights Activist Dies of Cancer
The Southern Mongolian dissident Huuchinhuu Govruud has died of cancer after a life of arrest, mistreatment and enforced disappearance at the hand of the Chinese government for her commitment to human rights in Southern Mongolia. Her health was significantly affected by years of house arrest, yet she continued to denounce China’s repressive policies and violations of human rights.
The article below was published by Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre:
On October 25, 2016, at 6:40 AM local time, Ms. Huuchinhuu Govruud, human rights defender, dissident writer and activist, died of cancer at the age of 61 in eastern Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Tongliao Municipality. Until her last breath, at her deathbed she had been monitored and guarded by Chinese State Security personnel around the clock for her “possible threat to the national interest and state security of China.”
Huuchinhuu’s son, and only family member, Mr. Cheel Borjigin, who himself has been diagnosed with brain cancer and is receiving chemotherapy in Minneapolis, the United States, notified the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) of his mother’s passing. As an asylee and outspoken critic of the Chinese Government, returning to visit his mother has been totally impossible for Cheel. His multiple requests to the Chinese Government to allow his mother to come to the United States for medical treatment have been turned down.
Having survived breast cancer in 1992, Huuchinhuu suffered from multiple illnesses, including cerebral infection and near total loss of eyesight. In the last seven months, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and skin cancer. Under the escort of the State Security personnel, Huuchinhuu underwent surgery in Beijing for the lung cancer. Later she refused to have any further surgery, after she was diagnosed with skin cancer on multiple locations, including her neck and head.
Born in 1954 in eastern Southern Mongolia’s Horchin Left Wing Middle Banner, Huuchinhuu has been one of the most outspoken critics of China’s repressive ethnic policies and human rights violations in Southern Mongolia.
While in college, Huuchinhuu was actively involved in campaigns against the Chinese colonial regime in Southern Mongolia, publicly opposing and criticizing China’s political repression, cultural assimilation and economic exploitation. In 1981, Huuchinhuu became one of the leaders of the Mongolian student movement that spread across Southern Mongolia in opposition to the Chinese Central Government’s so-called “Document No.28,” a proposal designed to transfer a large number of Chinese immigrants to Southern Mongolia.
Since the late 1990s, Huuchinhuu has been actively advocating for freedom of speech, press, and association—especially through the Internet since 2000. She volunteered to help administer a number of Internet discussion forums created by Mongolian students and intellectuals, including www.nutuge.com, www.ehoron.com, and www.mongolger.net. All three forums have been shut down by the Chinese authorities for “posting separatist content” and “discussing ethnic problems.”
In 1992, Huuchinhuu joined the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance (SMDA), an organization aiming at the independence of Southern Mongolia and ultimately reunion with the independent country of Mongolia. In December 1995, the Chinese authorities cracked down on the SMDA and arrested its members including Huuchinhuu, along with SMDA President Mr. Hada and Vice President Mr. Tegexi, were arrested. Huuchinhuu had been detained for three months.
In early November 2010, Huuchinhuu was arrested by the Chinese authorities for rallying the Mongolians via the Internet to cheer for the scheduled release of Mr. Hada, a prominent Southern Mongolian political prisoner and President of the SMDA.
After nearly two years of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial detention, Huuchinhuu was placed under house arrest in one of her relatives’ residences in Tongliao Municipality. She was denied the right to communication, including by Internet, phone access and postal service.
On November 28, 2012, Huuchinhuu was tried behind closed doors and pronounced guilty by the Tongliao Municipality People’s Court for “providing state secrets to a foreign organization,” according to her defense lawyer. Lacking legal basis and solid evidence, the authorities accused her of "leaking state secrets" for circulating some publicly available information through the Internet. In order to further control and silence her, the verdict claims that “due to the minor nature of the criminal act committed,” the “punishment is pending temporarily,” although Article 111 states that the crime of “stealing, gathering, procuring or unlawfully providing state secrets or intelligence for an organ, organization or individual outside the territory of China” is punishable by a sentence that can range from 5 years in jail up to life in prison.
Huuchinhuu authored several books and hundreds of essays on the ethnic problems and human rights issues of the Mongolian people. Her books include “The Stone-Hearted Tree,” “Silent Stone,” and “Journey”; all of her titles have been banned and confiscated from bookstores in Southern Mongolia by the Chinese authorities. In 2011, Huuchinhuu won the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award as a dissident writer.
Throughout her life, Huuchinhuu was arrested, detained, beaten, harassed, relocated and placed under house arrest on multiples occasions by the Chinese Public Security and State Security authorities for her open criticism of the Chinese colonial regime in Southern Mongolia and her refusal to cooperate with the Chinese authorities. In 2007, she was denied a passport for her “possible threat to the national interest and state security of China.” Since then, her requests to visit her son in the United States and receive medical treatment abroad have consistently been rejected by the Chinese authorities.
“Today is the day of sorrow and sadness for Southern Mongolia,” Mr. Enghebatu Togochog, Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said; “we have lost our nation’s one of the most fearless fighters and one of the most vocal and feisty defenders who became a voice of voiceless millions of Southern Mongolia especially after the crackdown of the SMDA.”