Mongolian Dissident Freed, Months Later

An Inner Mongolian dissident who became a Mongolian citizen is released after six months in Chinese custody.

2008-06-25
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InnerMongolia305.jpg Students at the Inner Mongolia University campus in Hohhot, in an undated photo from 2006.
AFP

HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have freed a Mongolian dissident after detaining him for more than six months and repeatedly interrogating him in custody, the dissident said.

“I was detained at Beijing International Airport on Jan. 6 and no reason was given,” Jaranbayariin Soyolt said in a telephone interview from his home in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bataar.

“I stayed at the Beijing Security Bureau Detention Center for two days, then the Inner Mongolia Security Bureau people transferred me to the No. 2 Detention Center of Inner Mongolia. I was then a member of the Inner Mongolia People’s party,” he added.

Soyolt is an ethnic Mongol and native of China’s Inner Mongolian province. He was traveling to Beijing in January on a translation assignment, he said. He was released and returned to Mongolia on June 17, he said.

Because of his membership in the opposition Inner Mongolia People’s Party, he said, he was repeatedly interrogated in custody and acused of “splittist” activities.

Exiled dissident

Soyolt was a leader of the 1981 Mongolian Student Movement, formed to protest Chinese government plans to move Han Chinese into Inner Mongolia. Chinese Mongolians now comprise less than 20 percent of the region's 24 million people.

He later went into exile in Mongolia and was granted citizenship in 1997, but Beijing still views him as a Chinese citizen.

Enhebatu, leader of the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Information Center, said Soyolt has long been regarded as a nuisance by the Chinese authorities.

“The Mongolian government repeatedly asked the Chinese government to release Soyolt and inform the Mongolian government of his status,” Enhebatu said.

Finally, on April 12, Chinese authorities took the position that Soyolt remained a Chinese citizen, he said.

Tumenwuliji, a Mongolian freelancer and friend of Soyolt’s, said Chinese authorities never explained that position.

'Inconceivable'

“Back in 1997, Soyolt was naturalized as a Mongolian citizen… he has legal Mongolian citizenship with the Mongolian president’s signature on it,” Tumenwuliji  said. “This is inconceivable.”

In a June 4 appeal, Amnesty International called for Soyolt's urgent released, saying it feared he was at risk of torture.

On the day of his detention, it said, two colleagues travelling with him went through customs and immigration checks ahead of Soyolt. "After waiting for him for two hours, his colleagues returned to inquire about the reason for his delay. At the customs counter, they saw Jaranbayar Soyolt handcuffed and surrounded by five policemen."

Soyolt phoned a colleague on Jan. 11, under duress, and said he was being detained "because of problems with his passport, and asked that nothing about his arrest be revealed to foreign media in order not to 'make things worse,'" Amnesty International said.

Original reporting by Han Qing for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Jia Yuan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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