Southern Mongolia: Herders Wrongly Accused of National Separatism by Local Police
Since 2008, a ban on livestock grazing was implemented in Southern Mongolia by the local police. In compensation, herders received subsidies, which were suddenly stopped six months ago. In response, Southern Mongolian herders published on social media images of their protest and started interacting with foreign journalists. The Chinese authorities reported these actions as national separatist activities leading to dozens of herders being held in police stations for interrogation.
Photo courtesy of Xianyi Shen on @Flickr
Below is an article by SMHRIC
On January 25, 2016, a dozen Mongolian herders from western Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Darhan-Muumingan Banner (“da mao qi” in Chinese) were taken away by local police authorities for contacting “overseas news media and hostile forces” and “engaging in national separatism”. Following several hours of interrogation, the herders were released. Many other herders received threatening phone calls from the local police authorities warning them not to contact any foreign news media or overseas organizations.
“At least a dozen herders were taken to the local police dispatch stations and questioned,” an elderly herder from the affected community told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) over the phone, “many others were warned over the phone by the police not to contact any foreigners.”
“I was also threatened by phone, and my daughter was taken to the police dispatch station,” she added.
Last Wednesday, dozens of Mongolian herders from Darhan-Muumingan Banner gathered in front of the Banner government building in protest of the local authorities’ refusal to pay a subsidy to the herders in partial compensation for their loss caused by the authorities’ total ban on livestock grazing.
After the protest, herders published some pictures and video clips of the protest scenes via social media and gave interviews to foreign journalists and human rights groups.
“I was threatened with accusations of ‘national separatism’,” another herder named Tuyaa told the SMHRIC, “the police said contacting those national separatist individuals and organizations is considered taking part in the national separatist activities as well.”
“Then they wanted to check my cell phone activities. I refused,” Tuyaa added.
Mongolian herders from this area said that the local authorities implemented the ban on livestock grazing in 2008 and promised to pay a certain amount of subsidies to the herders as part of redress for their economic loss. However, since six months ago, the Banner Government has stopped paying these subsidies without providing any reasonable explanation, according to the herders.
“Now our very survival is threatened. We are neither allowed to raise our livestock nor obtain the subsidy,” another frustrated herder told the SMHRIC.
On the same day, nearly a hundred herders from western Southern Mongolia’s Alshaa Left Banner also gathered before the local government building, urging the local government to halt its campaign of demolishing herders’ homes and infrastructure, demanding protection for the herders’ rights to their grazing lands and rights to maintain their traditional way of life.