Southern Mongolia: Protesting Herders Met with Undue Force
Photo courtesy of Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center
Over one hundred Mongolian herders gathered on the beaches of Lake Dalai-Nuur in eastern Southern Mongolia’s Heshigten Banner on 18 June 2017 to protest the denial of herders’ rights to access their grazing lands and lake water. Numerous protestors were brutally beaten by Chinese riot police wielding batons and pepper spray, and several herders were arrested. Mongolian herders are often met with violence and unjustly arrested by Chinese officials during peaceful protests for their land rights. Following the excessively forceful response by the police, social media witnessed an outpouring of solidarity with the protesting herders from other pastoralist communities and activists around the world.
Below is a press release by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center:
On n June 18, 2017, more than a hundred Mongolian herders from Duruu-nuur Gachaa, Darhan-uul Sum of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Heshigten Banner gathered near the Dalai-nuur Lake shore to defend their grazing land and sacred water. Chinese fishermen and riot police attacked the protesters with pepper spray and batons. At least nine Mongolian herders were arrested and dragged away by police after being severely beaten.
“Riot police are beating our people and spraying an unknown substance at our eyes,” a herdswoman at the scene said in a short footage. “Our eyes are burning and having difficulty seeing.”
“Many are beaten and several arrested and taken away,” the protestor added.
According to another video clip obtained by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), a herdswoman was beaten on the ground and taken away by the riot police shortly afterward. Another herdsman was beaten down on the ground by nearly a dozen riot police and handcuffed before being carried away.
Herders have been appealing to the local government against the Chinese fishery's arbitrary occupation of their grazing land and the denial of the herders' right to access the grazing land and lake water that they have depended on for generations.
A court decision issued on June 16, 2017 by the Heshigten Banner People’s Court reveals that the Chinese local authorities are apparently favoring the Chinese fishery and banning the herders from accessing the lake water and grazing near the lake bank.
“In order not to affect the normal production of both parties, and to avoid the possible escalation of the conflict,” the court paper states that the application made by the head of the fishery to demolish the fences built by the defendants was decided in the following manner:
1. Fences built by the four defendants near the Dalai-nuur bank in 2017 shall be demolished; and;
2. During the appeal period, defendants shall not build any temporary or permanent infrastructure near the lake bank.
As the determined herders gathered near the lake bank to stage the protest, supporters from other pastoralist communities rallied over social media in solidarity with the Heshigten herders.
A widely circulated open letter written in Mongolian in support of the herders’ plight states that “it is the time for us Mongolians to stand up to fight the Chinese invaders.”
“As a result of 70 years of Chinese occupation, our ancestral territory is taken away. We the owners of the land have been enslaved. It is the time for change! It is the time for us to stand up to defend our land with our blood!” the concluding paragraph of the letter states.