Southern Mongolia: Police Crack Down on Herders Protesting Refinery Pollution
Photo Credit: SMHRIC
300 Mongolian herders who staged a protest against a refinery’s pollution of herders’ grazing land were rounded-up and blocked by more than 500 riot police. Riot police allegedly beat the protesters with shields and batons in an attempt to prevent them from marching towards the refinery’s main gate. Herders claim that the toxic waste produced by the refinery is posing a serious threat to their health, with evidence of the destruction already showing in the death of livestock.
Below is an article published by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center:
More than 300 Mongolian herders from Ar-Hundelen Som of eastern Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Zaruud Banner (“za lu te qi” in Chinese) staged a protest yesterday (8 April) in front of the Huuliin-gol Alumina Refinery against the refinery’s pollution of the herders’ grazing land and serious threats to the health of both herders and livestock.
As the herders approached the refinery holding a banner reading “Pollution of Huuliin-gol Alumina Refinery cut off our life line!” more than 500 riot police rounded them up and blocked them from proceeding. Nearly twenty herders were beaten up and thrown into a police bus before the rest of the protestors managed to rescue them from arrest and possible detention.
“We herders from all Gachaas of Ar-Hundelen Som gathered in front of the Alumina Refinery today around 10 AM here,” a protestor named Altanbagan told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) over the phone. “We urged the local government and the refinery to shut down three major alumina plants that are dumping toxic wastes into our land, water, and air and poisoning us herders and our livestock.”
“Riot police beat us with their shields and batons in an attempt to block us from marching toward the refinery’s main gate,” Altanbagan said, describing the clash scene. “Some herdswomen were surrounded by many police and were kicked and punched by them before they were thrown into the bus.”
According to Altanbagan, riot police confiscated and smashed some herders’ cellular phones while they were taking pictures and video of the clash. A video clip the SMHRIC obtained from the protestors shows that riot police were forcefully dragging herders toward the bus, while local public security personnel tried to confiscate the cellular phone used to take the video.
In a written statement received by the SMHRIC, herders from Ar-Hundelen Som complained that the alumina refinery’s toxic wastes posed a serious threat to the health of livestock and the herders themselves. In another video clip (see below), a herder named Nasanulzei from the same area stood by his dying sheep as he described the serious devastation caused by the toxic industrial waste.
“Our sheep and goats are dying in a great number due to the pollution of Huuliin-gol Alumina Refinery,” Nasanulzei said, showing the abnormally long teeth of several dead sheep. “This year alone I lost more than thirty sheep, not including the baby lambs that we don’t even bother counting.”
According to “Distorted Teeth,” an investigative report published on Caixin Weekly China Reform (issue 7, 2012), “the excessively high level of fluorine in the water, soil, plants, and animal bones is possibly the root cause of massive deaths of livestock in Ar-Hundelen Som of Zaruud Banner.”
Pictures from the affected community also show that some herders already have abnormal teeth.
“Our health is threatened, our livestock is wiped out, our land is destroyed, our community is torn apart, and our lifeline is cut off,” Altanbagan told the SMHRIC. When asked what the herders’ next step was, he said, “We all are determined to continue our fight for justice until the refinery is shutdown, our survival is guaranteed, and our right is respected.”