Ethnic Protests in China Have Lengthy Roots

The New York Times provides the historical, political and social context behind the recent protests in Inner Mongolia:

…The ethnic Mongolian protests that have swept a number of cities in recent weeks are a sobering reminder that government largess, assimilation or an iron fist cannot entirely extinguish the yearnings of some of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, who account for 8 percent of the country’s population.

Even as an exemption from the nation’s one-child policy granted to minorities helped expand their numbers, Mongolians are still outnumbered by Han five to one in Inner Mongolia, a region twice the size of California that borders the independent nation of Mongolia.

“We feel like we are being drowned by the Han,” said a 21-year-old computer science student, speaking through the fence of Hohhot Nationality University, where he and thousands of other Mongolian students were penned up for five days last week to prevent them from taking to the streets. “The government always talks about ethnic harmony, but why do we feel so oppressed?”

Although the immediate trigger of the demonstrations was a hit-and-run accident in which a Han coal truck driver struck and killed a Mongolian herder in early May, the underlying enmity can be tied to longstanding grievances that spilled out during interviews with more than a dozen Mongolians last week: the ecological destruction wrought by an unprecedented mining boom, a perception that economic growth disproportionately benefits the Han and the rapid disappearance of Inner Mongolia’s pastoral tradition.

Read more about the protests in Inner Mongolia via CDT.