Chinese authorities in Inner Mongolia have handed a jail term of three years for "economic crimes" to a Mongolian man who set up a college of traditional medicine, after detaining his family last month and accusing them of trying to escape from years of house arrest.
Batzangaa, his wife Bayanhuaar and their two children were detained in the southern city of Guangzhou on April 13, 2013, after police accused him of planning to meet with a foreign official to arrange his family's escape overseas.
The family was taken back to their hometown in Inner Mongolia's Ordos municipality, where Batzangaa was held in detention before beginning his jail term.
An official notice of imprisonment issued by the Ordos court to Bayanhuaar said Batzangaa had begun serving a suspended jail term handed down in 2011 at the end of April, for "misdirecting funds."
"[At first] they didn't give me anything, and I waited a long time outside, until two court officials came out," Bayanhuaar said in an interview on Friday.
"They gave me a notice which said they had already formally arrested him, and that he would be in jail from April 25 to Jan. 18, 2016," she said.
"They had previously detained him for 100 days, so this was deducted from the sentence," Bayanhuaar added.
Batzangaa's lawyer Huhbulag said the Ordos authorities had canceled the suspension of his client's sentence, requiring him to serve it in full, with immediate effect.
He said he had heard that the family had planned to seek political asylum at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, but had been unable to confirm this information.
"I don't know the exact details of what went on, because I lost touch with him after he went to Guangzhou," Huhbulag said in an interview on Friday.
"His family didn't tell me about it until after he was detained, but I heard that he was trying to get into the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou," he said.
"I have spoken to his wife, but she didn't tell me about this."
Bayanhuaar said she didn't know about any plan to apply for asylum.
"I don't know if he went to Guangzhou to apply for something," she said. "But they said he had broken the terms [of his suspended sentence] and was disobedient."
Batzangaa's imprisonment came after the family was brought back from Mongolia, a neighboring but independent country, in May 2009 by Chinese police, while he was in the middle of an aslyum application with the United Nations Refugee Agency Liaison Office in Ulaanbaatar.
Batzangaa, a Chinese national and ethnic Mongolian who developed a network of traditional Mongolian-Tibetan medical practitioners around the Inner Mongolian region of China, was arrested at the front entrance of the U.N. refugee agency office building in Ulaanbaatar on Oct. 3, 2009.
According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), the three were deported back to Ordos municipality in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, on the same day, with no apparent recourse to Mongolian legal proceedings to challenge the deportation order.
Before leaving China, Batzangaa had set up and run the Ordos Mongol-Tibetan Medical School of traditional Tibetan medicine, and had a series of disputes with the Chinese authorities over the right to maintain the school’s ethnic characteristics, the group said in a statement at the time.
His application was based on fear of persecution due to his plans to organize public demonstrations to protest the authorities’ illegal confiscation of land belonging to the school.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.