Ethnic Mongolian Family on Hunger Strike in Protest Over China's Rights Abuses

2015-12-10
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Hada displays a sign expressing support for herders in Mongolian and Chinese, Jan. 15, 2015.
Photo courtesy of SMHRIC

Ethnic Mongolian dissident Hada began a hunger strike with his family to mark International Human Rights Day in a bid to highlight human rights abuses and ongoing harassment by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, long after his release from two decades in prison.

"Over the past five years, we have undergone unbearable ordeals," Hada wrote in a brief statement translated and posted online by the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights and Information Center (SMHRIC).

"All of our rights have either been taken away or restricted. We have been treated like criminals," he said.

"Therefore, my family has decided to go on a one-day hunger strike [on International Human Rights Day] to express our strong protest."

The veteran rights activist, who is 60, was released from extrajudicial detention in December 2014, four years after his 15-year jail term for "separatism" and "espionage" ended.

His family is under police surveillance and faces continuing financial difficulties after the authorities froze their bank accounts in January.

Hada said that while 2015 has been the worst in recent history for human rights abuses, things could still get far worse.

"I still think it is possible that the situation will deteriorate further," he said.

Hada's wife Xinna and the couple's grown son Uiles still have the threat of prison hanging over them, after Uiles was released on bail for alleged drug charges. Meanwhile, police have extended the period of suspension of Xinna's prison sentence, which should have expired this month, by two years, his statement said.

"On this day, Dec. 10, 20 years ago, my husband Hada was arrested, right on International Human Rights Day," Xinna told RFA.

"Hada was jailed for 19 years, including 15 years in prison and four years under house arrest, and at least he was still alive when he got out," she said. "Today marks the first anniversary of Hada's release ... [but] overall the rights situation for our family is getting worse and worse."

"They wouldn't give him a passport, all three of our phones have been tampered with, our Internet access has been cut off and our bank accounts frozen," Xinna said.

"My son has been beaten up twice by the state security police after protesting that they were following us ... while I have been kidnapped for helping herders write out their [complaints and petition] paperwork."

Outlook bleak

In spite of police restrictions forbidding him to engage in political matters, Hada has continued to speak out on behalf of ethnic Mongolian herders, who are increasingly in conflict with the government and state-own companies over the exploitation of their traditional grazing lands.

He told RFA in an interview on Wednesday that the outlook was bleak for traditional herding communities on the Inner Mongolian grasslands, however.

"They don't even number one in five now; they make up 15 percent. There are too many Han Chinese [moving into the region], and of that 15 percent, about half have been assimilated," he said.

"The majority who have been assimilated have done so after they gained some political power."

He said the herders' lives and livelihoods count for little in the rush by Chinese companies, often state-owned, to exploit their traditional grazing lands for mining and timber.

"We won't be able to prevent this from happening unless ethnic Mongolians actually have some political power," Hada said.

According to SMHRIC, tens of millions of people have been displaced in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet amid a boom in unregulated mining projects and the mass building of mega-dams.

Such projects are regularly approved without local community participation and have brought environmental devastation, flooding and water security problems in their train, it said in a statement released to coincide with the climate change summit in Paris this week.

It said vulnerable communities in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia were at particular risk from climate change, because "China's failed environmental policies are threatening the very existence of traditional culture and livelihoods."

"China's failed policies, for those under illegal occupation and marginalised, have done nothing to protect the human rights of local people at the frontline of the climate change crisis." SMHRIC spokesman Togochog Engabhatu said in the statement.

Indigenous knowledge

According to Dolkun Isa of the World Uyghur Congress, indigenous knowledge and local communities must be at the heart of any climate change solutions.

"It is ... vital that traditional and indigenous knowledge is part of global efforts to find solutions, and that local people are provided a platform to effectively participate and to shape their own future in the process," he said.

Meanwhile, recently exiled Tibetan Golog Jigme said climate change is also a human rights issue.

"The rapid increase in climate change has had a disproportionate effect on not just our people, but the world's most disadvantaged at large" SHMRIC quoted him as saying.

"Tibet provides water to over one billion people, but China's plans to build hundreds of large dams and water diversion projects across the plateau are putting the security of 10 countries at serious risk."

The U.N. General Assembly announced in 1950 that Dec. 10 would be Human Rights Day, in a bid to promote its Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard worldwide.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Beijing has signed but not ratified, states: "All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources ... In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ho Si-yuen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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