Dec 06, 2017

Southern Mongolia: Call for Ethnic Mongols to Take Back Land after Land Grabs

Photo Courtesy of Preston Rhea @Flickr

Writer and blogger Mr Tsetsenbaatar has spoken out after Hangin Banner local government have signed over traditional nomadic grazing lands belonging to ethnic Mongolians to Han Chinese livestock breeding companies. The grant of special land ‘licenses’ by the local authority overrides a recent Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region People’s High Court ruling in favour of the Mongolian herders over the disputed lands. Land grabs are an ongoing issue in the region, as many Mongol herders have been arrested and detained in attempts to protect their rights to their traditional lands and to prevent the non-consensual use of their lands by agricultural companies.

The article below is published by Radio Free Asia:

An ethnic Mongolian writer in China's northern region of Inner Mongolia has called on fellow ethnic Mongolians to "rise up" to reclaim their lands and livelihoods following repeated land grabs by local authorities and companies owned by majority Han Chinese.

Writer and blogger Tsetsenbaatar made the comments via the social media app WeChat after the Hangin banner government (a county-level administrative area) went ahead with its plan to sign over traditional nomadic grazing lands to a livestock breeding station.

"Nothing can be more outrageous than this," Tsetsenbaatar said in comments translated by the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC).

"The Chinese who came to our Mongolian lands as beggars are now robbing us Mongolians in broad daylight," he wrote.

"As descendants of Ghengis Khan, we should rise up to reclaim our land, livelihood, and dignity," Tsetsenbaatar said.

Agricultural officials and employees from the Hangin banner government and the livestock breeding farm beat up Urgumulaa, an ethnic Mongolian herder who resisted the takeover of her land, her sister and elderly father, before driving away their livestock on Nov. 29, SMHRIC said.

The officials "buried our well that we and our livestock drank from, and told us that we are not allowed to graze our animals there," she said in a Dec. 2 video statement that has been circulating on social media since.

She said the requisitioning of the family's land came in spite of a recent ruling by the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region People’s High Court, which found in favour of the herders.

"Without our knowledge, how can our grazing land where we lived for generations be turned to the property of this livestock breeding station? How can our land become a property of these Chinese robbers?" Urgumulaa said in the statement.

The court found the government's claim on the land, which it expressed by granting a land-use "license" to the breeding farm, to be "unfounded."

"With no authority to override the High Court’s decision, the Hangin banner government is apparently violating the relevant Chinese laws to accommodate the livestock breeding station, possibly due to certain under-the-table deals," SMHRIC said in statement on its website.

Ethnic Mongolians, who make up almost 20 percent of Inner Mongolia's population of 23 million, increasingly complain of widespread environmental destruction and unfair development policies in the region.
Clashes between Chinese state-backed mining or forestry companies and herding communities are common in the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.

Ethnic Mongolians who complain about the loss of their grazing lands are frequently targeted for harassment, beatings and detention by the authorities.

Last week, several herders from Zaruud banner and Hangin banner arrived in the regional capital Hohhot to lodge formal petitions and lawsuits relating to land disputes, but were prevented from approaching the complaints department of the regional government, they told RFA.

"I was detained for a month last September because I reported the illegal destruction of villagers' environment and property by a commercial concern," herder Toyaa from Ulaanha village in an interview on Nov. 25.

"I was detained on suspicion of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble and released on bail, but I didn't accept the charges, so I went back to Beijing to complain, and the court sentenced me to six months' imprisonment," she said.

"All because I was reporting official corruption."

Fellow herder Wang Yatou said she was seeking compensation after her son drowned in a ditch illegally dug by a company in her village.

"After he died, the villagers all complained, but the workers just kept on digging up the sand, and destroying the environment," she said.

"They have held me and other petitioning herders in the detention center, and finally sentenced me and five other people for picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," said Wang. "I intend to take this all the way."

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