Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have destroyed the homes and farms of two herding families after they refused to move out amid an ongoing land dispute with officials, local residents told RFA on Thursday.
The government moved in to carry out forced evictions and demolitions after it requisitioned some 13,000 mu (867 hectares) of grassland near Yikewusu township for a stock breeding farm, they said.
"On July 19, the heads of the stock breeding farm, Gao Yongli and Ye Yongcun, came to our homes with 16 of their employees," Yikewusu resident and ethnic Mongolian herder Urgumulaa told RFA.
"They drove away all of the sheep from the home of my mother Alatenghua and [neighbor] Li Jinlian, and they smashed up the well," she said.
"They said that the grasslands belong to them, not to us herders, and they ordered us to move out."
Li Jinlian was taken away in an ambulance with heart problems after trying to prevent the demolition gang from destroying her home, a video of the aftermath showed.
"That was Li Jinlian," Urgumulaa said. "Her farm was destroyed on July 19, and she fainted on the 21st because she hadn't slept for several nights."
"She's still receiving medical treatment," she said. "My mother has been on this farm for generations."
Widespread environmental destruction
The move came after the local government "allocated" lands previously grazed by Alatenghua and Li Jinlian to the Molinhe Stock Breeding Farm on their grazing lands last July, herders said.
The demolition gang had also taken away a diesel-powered pump the herders were using to extract groundwater, and police had taken the side of the stock-breeding farm, they said.
Urgumulaa said her family had lived on the land in question for more than four decades.
"Li Jinlian moved here in 1975, and we moved here in 1975," she said. "Then, the government just allocated the land to the stock breeding farm, saying it was in keeping with the law on the use of state-owned land."
"We have been to complain about this in Ordos city, at the Inner Mongolian regional government [in Hohhot], and even to Beijing," she said.
An employee who answered the phone at the Molinhe Stock Breeding Farm declined to comment on Thursday.
Ethnic Mongolian rights activist Xinna said she had been following the herders' petitions against their eviction.
"The police tried to put a lot of pressure on Urgumulaa when she went to petition, warning her not to speak out about what was happening to her family," Xinna said.
"They told her they would 'deal with her' if she carried on with her complaint," she said. "But I didn't think the dispute would escalate so badly."
Ethnic Mongolians, who make up almost 20 percent of Inner Mongolia's population of 23 million, increasingly complain of widespread environmental destruction and unfair development policies in the region.
Clashes between Chinese state-backed mining or forestry companies and herding communities are common in the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.