Chinese authorities in Inner Mongolia have warned a young ethnic minority Mongolian student after he performed a Chinese-language rap in support of recent mass protests calling for better rights protection for herders and an end to pollution of the region's grasslands.
The protests were sparked by the death of a herder named Murgen who was run over by a mining company truck during a standoff between drivers and local people in May.
"I want freedom," sings the unnamed student. "Give me freedom," he says before launching a string of expletives at China's national security police, at Internet censors who deleted his microblog posts, and at government officials who turn a blind eye to environmental devastation.
"We have grazed animals here thousands of years," he raps. "How many people are coming here to open mines and plunder our resources?"
"The grassland is mother of all Mongols that can no longer survive the destruction."
"I may rap in Chinese, but I'm a Mongol just the same. Our home is being devastated," he raps. "The green grasslands are turning yellow."
"The herders have nothing left...We are the descendants of Genghis Khan. Mongolians unite! We will never be doomed."
Deleted from Chinese Internet
The rap tune was soon deleted from the Chinese Internet, although it was still available Friday on YouTube, which is frequently blocked by China's Web censorship and filter system, known as the Great Firewall.
Nahubisgalat, an ethnic Mongolian Chinese national currently living in Japan who founded the "Free Southern Mongolia" website, said the song, titled, "For Murgen, Hero of the Grasslands," had landed the student in a lot of trouble.
"This student's song was aimed at the recent suppression [of protests], and he was taken in for tea and questioning," Nahubisgalat said.
"The university got involved and he had to write a self-criticism," he said. "We have published his song on our website today."
Students in Inner Mongolia have returned to class and are free to leave campus again following mass protests sparked by the death of Murgen and another herder last month, but security forces are still patrolling key cities in the troubled region, local residents said.
"We are all going back to class now," said a lecturer at the Inner Mongolia Normal University in Hohhot. "We are also going out onto the streets to buy things. Everything is normal," he said.
Strong security presence
The New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said there was still a strong security presence on the streets of Hohhot and Xilinhot, however.
"The authorities are still on high alert here,” a resident of Hohhot, the regional capital, told SMHRIC. "In some places presence of paramilitary and riot police is even heavier than before."
And a herder in Shuluun Huh county reported: "The situation is still tense here, and police and paramilitary forces are patrolling the streets."
Authorities in the western Shiliingol prefecture, near the border with Mongolia, are holding under house arrest freelance writer Bolchuluu, and Shiliingol Vocational College lecturer Biligbaatar, who posted an online call for herdsmen Murgen to be hailed as a "martyr."
Biligbaatar's colleague, Burintsetsen, from the same college, is still being held at an undisclosed location, the SMHRIC said in a news release on Friday.
Burintsetsen is accused of “sending multiple text messages” to rally the Mongols to take to the streets to express their grievance, while a third vocational college teacher, Bayasal, had also been arrested, SMHRIC said.
Meanwhile, in Hohhot, dairy food store owner Tulguur, who was already banned from traveling to Mongolia, was being held under house arrest following protests in the city.
Right Ujumchin Banner educational official Setsenbaatar is being held for sending out photographs of the protests, while Naiman-based dissident Almas Sharnuud is missing, the the SMHRIC said.
The group said four ethnic Mongol youths were believed to have escaped over the border to seek political asylum in neighboring Mongolia.
It said the Chinese authorities were still blocking popular chat program QQ and other social media sites in Inner Mongolia.
Rights groups said the protests reflected deep and widespread anger over continuing exploitation of the region's grasslands, the heartland of Mongol culture.
The herders are calling for an end to open-cast mining, or strip-mining, of coal in their pastures.
Xilinhot, with a population of 177,000, lies on top of vast and as yet untapped coal reserves estimated at 1.4 trillion metric tons, enough to power energy-hungry China for hundreds of years, experts say.
Environmentalists say strip-mining is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining, destroying the surface ecosystem over a wide area, creating noise and vibration, and releasing pollutants into the air.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.