An ethnic Mongolian activist is believed to be held under house arrest following his release from prison, but his whereabouts are unknown, according to relatives who obtained photos of the man and his family.
Hada, 55, was scheduled to be released from a prison in Chifeng, in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region last Friday after serving 15 years for “separatism” because he led a nonviolent campaign for Mongolian independence from Chinese rule.
Hada’s sister-in-law, Naraa, said she received an envelope this weekend from a public security official containing a CD-ROM with five photos dated from Dec. 10 purportedly showing Hada, his wife Xinna, and his son Uiles sitting down to a reunion dinner, according to a U.S.-based Mongolian rights group.
Hada's uncle, Haschuluu, said Hada’s appearance suggests the photos were shot recently, but gave no indication of where the photos were taken.
“I inquired into Hada’s whereabouts with the prison, but prison authorities asked me not to concern myself with this,” Haschuluu said.
“I believe that Hada has been released, but remains under house arrest. I heard that he was brought to the capital of Hohhot.”
Hada’s wife and son were both detained by public security officials in Hohot last week ahead of Hada’s expected release from prison, and their whereabouts are also unknown.
Xinna was charged with “illegally operating a business” and Uiles was accused of “being involved in drug dealing.”
According to Naraa, the family’s Mongolian Studies Bookstore is still sealed shut and Mongolian students and customers have been warned by the authorities not to visit the bookstore.
The New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) issued a statement saying that the reunion appeared real, but that it is unclear where it took place.
"The scene suggests that the family reunion was probably arranged by the authorities in a place obviously not their own home," the group said.
Police in Chifeng could not be reached for comment.
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 Joshua Lipes.