Nov 30, 2015

Southern Mongolia: Herders’ Leader Detained for Chatting on Social Network

On 25 November 2015, Ms Odongerel, a herder known for organising protests against the Chinese authorities’ illegal appropriation of grazing lands in Urad Middle Banner, was arrested for activities over the social network ‘WeChat’.  Put under a 10-day detention, the local Public Security Bureau informed Ms Odongerel‘s mother that her daughter had “chatted too much”. Currently being held at the Bayannuur Municipality Public Security Bureau Detention Center, Ms Odongerel has been deprived of family visits and forbidden from seeing a lawyer. Known for her leadership in local protests, Ms Odongerel had already been arrested and jailed in multiple occasions and has even served a sentence in a “re-education through labour” camp. 

Below is an article published by Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) 

As herders from Urad Middle Banner (“wu la te zhong qi” in Chinese) of Southern (Inner) Mongolia continue their protest against the local authority’s illegal appropriation of grazing lands, on November 25, 2015, Ms. Odongerel, a long time leader and organizer of herders’ protests, was taken away by the local Public Security personnel from her home in Haliut Township, capital of the Urad Middle Banner. On the second day, Ms. Dejidmaa, mother of Odongerel, was informed of her detention by the Public Security authorities.

“Two Public Security Bureau officers came to me and told me that my daughter was put under a 10-day detention,” Dejidmaa told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) over the phone, “the reason for the arrest and detention was that Odongerel chatted with people over WeChat.”

“When I asked the Public Security officers whether WeChat is there for people to chat, they said ‘Odongerel chatted too much’,” Dejidmaa told the SMHRIC during the phone interview.

The Public Security Bureau personnel read the notice of detention to Dejidmaa after asking her to sign her name as family member, but refused to leave a copy of the detention notice to her, according to Dejidmaa.

Currently, Odongerel is held at the Bayannuur Municipality Public Security Bureau Detention Center in the municipal capital Linhe City. Family members are not allowed to visit her. No lawyer is available to defend Odongerel.

A week ago, Odongerel was also detained for several hours by the Urad Banner Public Security Bureau for “spreading information on the Internet and criticizing the local government of corruption”.

On November 3, 2015, Odongerel was detained for “spreading rumors” and “carrying infected animal blood,” referring to her effort to disclose the intention of the local authorities’ campaign to slaughter herders’ livestock under the pretext of controlling “anthrax”.

In November of 2013, Odongerel organized 17 Mongolian herders from Urad Middle Banner to visit Beijing. They had spent 12 days submitting appeals to Central Government authorities, urging the Chinese State Council Letter and Visitation Bureau and the Ministry of Agriculture to restrain local government officials and Chinese miners from illegally occupying their grazing lands. The herders have been confined to their communities and barred from communications with higher government authorities after they were brought back from Beijing by local Public Security dispatches.

According to written communications received by the SMHRIC, since 2006, the herders have been protesting:

1. Illegal land expropriation and land sale by local government officials to the Chinese;

2. Destruction of the herders’ grazing land by Chinese miners and military bases;

3. The government’s failure to provide adequate redress and compensation to the affected herders.

As one of the main organizers of all these protests and petitions, Odongeral was arrested, detained and jailed multiple times by the Urad Middle Banner Public Security Bureau.

In November, 2012, she was sentenced to a year and half of reeducation through labor for organizing herders who staged protests in front of the local governments and in Beijing.

In April 2013, Odongerel was arrested and detained in a military base near the border with the independent country of Mongolia for 10 days for organizing the herders to protest the military base’s illegal occupation of their grazing land.

Photo courtesy of Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center