Mongolia has repatriated two exiles from neighboring China’s restive Inner Mongolia region after they planned to join public calls against the deportation of a fellow exile who is a prominent anti-China dissident, a U.S.-based rights group said Friday.
Dalaibaatar Dovchin and Tulguur Norovrinchen, both of whom studied music in Mongolia, were sent across the border by train on Tuesday and have not been heard from since Wednesday, the New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said.
Dalaibaatar had a valid student visa and Tulguur had an asylum-seeker certificate from the U.N. refugee agency, but authorities gave no explanation for their deportation, the group said.
The two were detained by police in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator for two hours on May 9 while planning to attend a press conference calling on authorities not to repatriate anti-China activist Alhaa Norovtseren, who is also from Inner Mongolia, according to SMHRIC.
Alhaa, an outspoken critic of Chinese policies in Inner Mongolia, has made public appeals to be allowed to stay in Mongolia after being notified last month that he must leave, threatening to self-immolate in protest if he is deported.
The deportation underscores concerns among Inner Mongolians over Mongolia’s ties with Beijing, which has been accused of blatant human rights abuses, activists say.
Dalaibaatar is a doctoral student in music studies at the National University of Mongolia and Tulguur studied at the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture and the Mongoljingoo School and was once part of a music band, according to the group.
The two are believed to have been actively involved in promoting human rights and traditional culture and heritage in their homeland while they were in neighboring Mongolia, according to SMHRIC.
Dalaibaatar spoke briefly with SMHRIC on Wednesday after he and Tulguur arrived across the border, but the call was cut short by someone believed to be their escort and successive calls were not answered.
Tulguur’s wife Batzayaa Doshdondog told SMHRIC Wednesday she was going to China in search of her husband because she had no information about his or Dalaibaatar’s status other than that they had been sent to the Chinese border city of Erenhot (in Chinese, Erlian).
“I am at the entrance to the Chinese side hoping to see my husband,” said Batzayaa, who is a citizen of Mongolia, while waiting to go through customs.
“At the moment I don’t have any further information about their status and it is inconvenient for me to talk here.”
SMRHIC said the pair’s repatriation was the first major case of Mongolian authorities sending Inner Mongolians back to China since that of Batzangaa, who has been imprisoned since his deportation five years ago.
The deportation of Alhaa has been postponed after he sent an open letter to Mongolian President Tsakhiyagiin Elbegdorj stating he would self-immolate rather than accept deportation to China.
Alhaa, who has lived in Mongolia since 1992, was given a notice from immigration authorities on May 5 ordering him to leave voluntarily in 10 days or face deportation to China.
Alhaa accused authorities of bending to the will of Beijing, telling Elbedgorj he was willing to die “for the freedom and human rights” of ethnic Mongolians in China and elsewhere.
Ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia have long complained that mining and desertification are destroying their traditional grazing lands, and that the government has forced them to settle in permanent dwellings in defiance of their herding traditions.
Inner Mongolian communities around the globe are “deeply troubled” by Mongolia’s “unusually close” relationship with China and violation of the rights of Inner Mongolian exiles, SMHRIC said.
In October 2009, Batzangaa, the principal of a Mongol-Tibetan medical school from Inner Mongolia’s Ordos region, was sent back to China while he was still under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and imprisoned in Inner Mongolia Jail No. 4.
In May 2012, historian Rolmaajidiin Tsengel, an exile from Inner Mongolia, was arrested and jailed in Mongolia on charges of “attempt to overthrow the government of Mongolia and conspiracy of a coup.”