Ethnic Mongolian Activist Lodges Formal Complaint Over 'Tiger Bench' Torture, Interrogation

2017-06-22
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Devastated grassland is shown in Urad Middle Banner, Inner Mongolia, March 9, 2016.
Devastated grassland is shown in Urad Middle Banner, Inner Mongolia, March 9, 2016.
Photo courtesy of local herders

Yangjindolma, an ethnic Mongolian woman from China's northern region of Inner Mongolia, has lodged a complaint against the local government after she was tortured and held in manacles during a 15-day detention by Chinese police.

Yangjindolma said she was detained May 10 on suspicion of "inciting and planning an illegal gathering" the day before the sixth anniversary of the killing of fellow ethnic Mongolian herder Murgen in Bayanhuaa township, Xilingol League in 2011.

Murgen's death under a coal truck while protesting the destruction of grazing lands by a mining company sparked weeks of protests across the region by herders and students, and has become a symbol of ethnic Mongolian unrest and anger at the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"I went to lodge a petition on June 20 in [the regional capital] Hohhot," Yangjindolma told RFA on Thursday. "It was in protest at my illegal detention [by police]."

She said she still wants an official response to her 15-day administrative detention, a type of punishment that can be handed down by police for up to 15 days to perceived troublemakers without trial.

"They kept me shackled to the tiger bench for 24 hours straight, while they interrogated me," she said. "They told me that I would wear manacles for the rest of the night if I didn't behave myself."

"When the interrogation was over, they released me, but I spent the entire first day after I was detained on the tiger bench," she said, referring to a device suspended off the ground while a detainee's hands are cuffed onto a wooden board and their feet are left hanging.

"After I was released, I told the policeman who detained me that I would be expecting an explanation from them," Yangjindolma said. "I still haven't had it, so I am taking this to the higher authorities, in the hope of winning some redress."

China ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988, but Chinese police have continued to torture rights activists to extract confessions and punish and humiliate them, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

"The government has not taken effective steps, changed incentives, or set up the mechanisms needed to eliminate torture," the group said, adding that Chinese officials refuse to provide comprehensive data on such practices, which include the "tiger bench."

"Victims of torture in China often have no other choice but to pursue justice through an ineffective petitioning system, which can lead to reprisals," CHRD said, adding that compensation for torture victims is rare, and rehabilitation services almost non-existent.

Grasslands protector

Yangjindolma said she was detained as she was planning an activity to mark the sixth anniversary of Murgen's death on May 11, which she is calling for to be designated "Protect the Grasslands Day." She also wanted to support herders of Honggor village in Siziwang Banner, an administrative district similar to a county, in their fight to prevent mining on their traditional grazing lands.

"There has been huge mining exploitation across Inner Mongolia in the last few years, and this has wreaked devastation on the grasslands," Yangjindolma said. "The destruction of the grasslands has led to a collapse in the traditional economics of herding life, which has rocked the whole basis of ethnic Mongolian culture and identity."

But she said the authorities won't tolerate even the smallest sounds of protest from herding communities.

"They detain people, demolish Mongolians' yurts, terrorize the local population and go after their friends and relatives," she said.

"I never expected a few events in support of environmental protection for herding communities would be completely shut down before they even started," she said.

Germany-based ethnic Mongolian rights activist Xi Haiming said he supports Yangjindolma's campaign.

"Murgen gave his life for the grasslands," Xi said on Thursday. "All of his fellow villagers in Xilingol League remember him, and the harsh repression he met with at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party; this is the face that they turn towards Mongolians."

"Their aim is to take away all of the land from ethnic Mongolians."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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