Apr 18, 2014

Southern Mongolia: Chinese Authorities Arrest Seven Herders

Following a sit-in protest by ethnic Southern Mongolian herders against a mining company that has been polluting their grazing lands by dumping toxic waste onto their grazing lands since January, the Chinese authorities detained eight  herders, of which seven are still being held in custody. 

Below is an article published
by Radio Free Asia:


Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia are holding seven ethnic Mongolian herders after clashes with a mining company they said polluted their grazing lands, local residents said on Thursday [17 April 2014].

The detentions came after around 150 herders from Chagaan-oboo Gachaa in Heshigten Banner (in Chinese, Keshiketeng Qi) to the north of Chifeng city staged a sit-in protest in front of the Inner Mongolia Yindu Mining Co. on Wednesday [16 April 2014].

Herders told RFA that the company had been dumping toxic waste onto their grazing lands in since January, causing the death of livestock.

"They were afraid of trouble, so they just called in the riot police from Heshigten and detained eight people," a local herder who declined to be identified said.

He said the dispute had been running since the beginning of the year.

"In January [2014], it seems there was a leak from their waste pipes, and they left it too late to fix it, which meant that pollution got into the river," he said.

"All the livestock nearby ended up dying."

He said an elderly herder was released by police late on Wednesday [16 April 2014], but the rest remained behind bars.

"There are still seven of our herders being held by the Heshigten Banner police department," he said.

According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), Yindu Mining runs one of the few large silver, zinc, and lead mines in northern China.

"The mining company ... occupied a large piece of grazing land of the local Mongolian herders' community," the group said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday [17 April 2014].

An official who answered the phone at the Heshigten Banner police department said it was "inconvenient" to speak by phone.

"You should come here yourself," the official said.And an employee who answered the phone at the Bayanchagaan Som, a subdistrict of Heshigten Banner which administers Chagaan-Oboo Gachaa, said the pollution leak had already been brought under control.

"The locals got a bit of compensation, which has already been paid out," the official said. "There shouldn't be a problem."

"They are kicking up a fuss over nothing, saying they have to give them money."

"Animals die in every village ... because it's spring and they're not doing well and their immunity is down," the official added. "It's hardly fair to go blaming the mining company because a cow or a sheep dies."

But the Chagaan-Oboo herder said their animals rarely died in springtime, and that a single ox would cost an average herding family one fifth of their total annual income.

Image @dbmboise