Chinese authorities in the restive northern region of Inner Mongolia are holding an ethnic Mongolian dissident and his family in separate detention centers following his release from jail last year, relatives and rights groups said.
Hada, 55, was scheduled for release from a prison in Chifeng, in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region last December after serving 15 years for “separatism” because he led a nonviolent campaign for Inner Mongolian independence from Chinese rule.
Since then, Hada, his wife Xinna, and his son Uiles have been held in separate detention centers, and authorities have indicated they will pursue charges against them.
"I haven't seen them ever since [Hada's release]," said Haschuluu, Hada's uncle by marriage. "But we recently saw [Hada's wife] Xinna on one occasion."
"Her situation is this: she recently heard that the authorities were starting up the case against her again," he added. "I heard them say it was for 'illegal business activities.'"
The family’s Mongolian Studies Bookstore was shut down last year and Xinna accused of "illegally running a business," while Uiles was accused of drug-dealing by the authorities, rights groups said at the time of Hada's release.
"Hada was arrested and put under detention along with his wife Xinna and son Uiles," the New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said.
"Currently all three members of the family are being held in separate facilities," it said.
According to SMHRIC, Hada is currently being held in "a secret prison" in suburban Hohhot, while Xinna is in the Inner Mongolia No. 1 Detention Center and Uiles is in the Inner Mongolia No. 3 Detention Center.
Xinna’s brother Khas was recently allowed to meet with Xinna at the detention center for about an hour, the group said.
"It was obvious that Xinna was suffering under the stress of an open-ended detention," it added.
The group quoted family members as saying that authorities have yet to present any evidence to support their accusations.
Hada's 84-year-old mother Hanshuulan was quoted as saying: "We are not allowed to visit Hada and Uiles. But we are still demanding a meeting with both of them."
Hanshuulan said that she and her daughter, Hada's sister, had been visited on a number of occasions by police, who hoped to put pressure on Hada to "cooperate" via his closest family.
They had also warned the women not to talk to foreign journalists or human rights groups, SMHRIC said.
The continued detention of Hada and his family comes after large-scale protests in May by herders and students across Inner Mongolia, triggered by the killing of a herdsman in standoffs with mining company staff.
In the wake of the protests, China sentenced one mining truck driver to death for the killing of herdsman Murgen, at the same time pouring large numbers of troops into the region and enforcing a security lock-in at schools, universities, and government institutions.
Official documents described the protests by thousands of ethnic Mongols in the region's major cities as the work of "external hostile forces," although it made no mention of where those forces originated.
Some ethnic Mongolian rights activists refer to the province of Inner Mongolia as Southern Mongolia in reference to the Republic of Mongolia on its northern border.
Mongols are a recognized ethnic minority in China and number around 6 million according to government statistics.
Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.