Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have formally arrested an ethnic Mongolian activist who posted social media comments in support of his Mongolian herding community near Tongliao city amid a long-running dispute over land.
Hai Wenming, 32, was detained on Dec. 12 in the regional capital Hohhot after he posted details online of a land dispute at his home village in Horchin Left Back Banner (county), 75 kilometres (47 miles) to the north of Tongliao city.
The activist's formal arrest notification was issued Jan. 20 by the state prosecutor in Horchin Left Back Banner, placing him under continued investigation by local police, ethnic Mongolian rights activist Xinna told RFA.
Hai is currently being held in the Ganqika town detention center, she said.
His wife posted a photo online on Sunday of herself with the couple's two-year-old daughter holding up a placard calling for her husband's immediate release.
"I want my Daddy," the placard said. "I miss my Daddy. Please let my Daddy go soon."
An ethnic Mongolian academic who asked to remain anonymous told RFA that the authorities have so far denied permission for Hai to meet with his lawyer.
"He was detained at the beginning of December for sending out a tweet on social media that said the government wasn't acting when it should," she said.
"Then they detained him, and now it seems they have converted the detention into a formal arrest, and a case is being brought by the prosecution," the academic said. "He hasn't met with his lawyer yet."
She described Hai as an intellectual who has previously spoken out about environmental pollution of his home village in Horchin Left Back Banner.
Land swallowed up
The villagers there are currently in a dispute with the Wudantaraa Forestry Station, which has swallowed up most of the land previously allocated to local people for grazing and agriculture.
Clashes between mining or forestry companies backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and herding communities are now common in the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia, activists say.
Repeated calls to the Tongliao municipal government offices rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Veteran ethnic Mongolian dissident Hada, Xinna's husband, said the takeover of herders' traditional grazing lands by the government under the pretext of forestry has been going on since the 1950s in the region.
"This plunder has continued to the present day, leaving the herders in a very vulnerable position," Hada said. "But there's nothing they can do about it, and you could say that some are getting more and more desperate in the face of this huge imbalance of power."
"Nobody cares or does anything about it," Hada said.
Last November, authorities in Horchin Left Middle Banner detained ethnic Mongolian herder Unench in connection with the killings of four Han Chinese farmers, who activists said had repeatedly bullied and abused him in a dispute over his care of their sheep flocks.
China's 5.8 million-strong ethnic Mongolian community have long complained of widespread environmental destruction, violent evictions from traditional grazing lands, and unfair development policies in the region.
Hada and Xinna have said the routine eviction of herders from their traditional grazing lands, often in the name of ecological protection, is part of a calculated program of ethnic cleansing by the Communist Party in Inner Mongolia.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Lee Lai for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.