China Tightens Grip on Inner Mongolia Before Protest (Updated)
Protests in Inner Mongolia over the killing of a Mongolian shepherd by Han truck drivers have intensified, as activists have called for a large protest on Monday. Two people have been arrested in the killing. From Reuters:
Security forces sealed off parts of the capital of China’s vast northern region of Inner Mongolia on Sunday to prevent residents from staging a planned protest after the hit-and-run death of a herder.
Ethnic Mongolians have been protesting for six days over the death this month of a Mongolian herder, Mergen, after being struck by a coal truck. The government announced the arrest of two Han Chinese for homicide, but that failed to stem the anger.
Hundreds of paramilitary policemen and police in riot gear, armed with shields, batons and helmets, patrolled Hohhot’s Xinhua Square, next to the Inner Mongolia radio and television station, after calls spread online for a protest on Monday.
Police also surrounded Ruyi Square, in front of the local government building, but elsewhere life went on as usual.
Mongolian activists are calling for demonstrations on Monday at Chinese embassies and consulates around the world and are predicting more protests in Inner Mongolian areas where last week’s demonstrations erupted. The largest were in the city of Xilinhot and in the county seats of Zhenglan and Xiwu, also known as Shuluun Huh and Ujumchin in Mongolian.
“The situation is very tense and very dangerous. The schools are sealed off. The army is ready to crack down if there is any kind of protest,” said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. He said the deployment of security forces was tantamount to martial law.
The underlying tension, as with Tibetans and Uighurs, concerns the threat posed to ethnic identity and traditional lifestyle by China’s rapid economic development and policy of resettling the majority ethnic Han in minority regions. But China’s Mongolians, now less than 20% of the population of Inner Mongolia, have been better assimilated and less militant. The last large-scale demonstrations took place in 1981 over Communist Party plans to bring hundreds of thousands of settlers to Inner Mongolia.
The Mongolian who was killed, Mergen — who, like many Mongolians, was known by a single name — had been involved in protests before over the expropriation of grazing lands for coal mining. He had been trying to block a convoy of trucks from driving through grazing lands.
The Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center has posted numerous photos from the area.
UPDATE: News reports also say that major websites are blocking searches for “Inner Mongolia.” From PC World:
Two of the most popular microblog services operating in China no longer allow users to search for the term “Inner Mongolia.” Sina’s and Tencent’s microblogs have 140 million and 160 million users, respectively.
Social networking site Renren, nicknamed “Facebook of China”, is also preventing users from posting about “Inner Mongolia.” Renren users who have registered China’s Inner Mongolia region as their hometown also reported that their friends cannot fully view their user pages.
[...] The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said on its website that China’s most popular instant messenger service QQ, which helped organize the mass protests, has been shutdown in the region.
A internal document entitled “An Explanation for Sealing the Campus,” issued by authorities by Inner Mongolia, has been exposed and circulated among Chinese netizens. It starts with:
According to information gathered by relevant agences, this “May 30″ conspiracy attempt is a political conspiracy organized, planned and incited by external hostile forces and a handful of extremists inside. The agenda is to utilize students’ patriotism, and simple and pure emotions of loving their hometown and loving the country to achieve the evil goal of the destroying ethnic unity, splitting the country and destroying stability. “
The fulltext of the document (in Chinese) is here.