April 18, 2017

Southern Mongolia: Over a Dozen Protesting Herders Held in Detention

Photo courtesy of SMHRIC

On 13 April 2017, Chinese police forcibly apprehended 13 Mongolian herders at a protest against a government-led afforestation initiative that involved the nonconsensual plowing of their ancestral grazing lands. The protesting herders were charged with a 10-day detention by the Horchin Left Wing Rear Banner Public Security Bureau for causing a “public disturbance”. This unlawful detention comes days after at least 30 Mongolians were arrested during a mass protest against land grabbing and environmental exploitation in Southern Mongolia at the hands of government-backed development schemes.

Below is a press release by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center:

On April 13, 2017, 13 Mongolian herders from Seegen Gachaa of Uul Township in eastern Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Horchin Left Wing Rear Banner (“ke zuo hou qi” in Chinese) were taken away by police and given a 10-day detention by the local Public Security Bureau for “public disturbance and obstruction of government project.”

The Chinese state-run local TV news broadcast confirmed “the Horchin Left Wing Rear Banner Public Security Bureau and the Agricultural and Pastoral Areas General Law Enforcement Bureau had forcibly taken away 13 local herders from the scene for assembling crowds to disturb public order and obstructing government project for afforestation.”

“[The local authorities] prosecuted them in accordance with the law to strike hard on illegal activities of sabotaging our Banner’s ecological afforestation development,” the government mouthpiece added.

According to the information received by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), the protest started on April 5, 2017 as the government-sponsored company called “Guo Jie Afforestation” showed up on the herders’ grazing land to start plowing.

On April 10, 2017, more than 300 herders gathered on their grazing lands to try to block the bulldozers and tractors from turning up the land. Nearly 200 police in riot gear with dozens of police vehicles arrived at the protest and carried out what the Public Security Bureau head referred to as “persuasion and education” on local television interview for two days until yesterday, when the tension escalated as the herders refused to cooperate.

“Our next step is to strengthen our propaganda and education in the project area,” the Bureau head said, expressing his determination to crush any possible resistance.

“If any similar activity of obstructing the project takes place, we will take a harsher measure to strike harder on the perpetrators. Any reoccurrence of this is absolutely not tolerated,” he added before the interview was concluded.

Despite the authorities’ “persuasion and education” and warning of a harsher crackdown, local herders are determined to continue their resistance in defense of their ancestral grazing land and traditional way of life.

“The government is robbing our three villages’ grazing lands without our consent,” a herdswoman said in footage taken at the protest. “Women are beaten, our cars are smashed, and many were arrested.”

“This is a total chaos! What an anarchic time we are living in!” the herdswoman added.