Group Slams China's Record on Ethnic Mongolians Amid Calls For Writer's Release

Beijing is accused of 'systematic and institutionalized discrimination' against ethnic Mongolians and their traditional way of life.

Ethnic Mongolian historian and author Lhamjab A. Borjigin, 74, who is facing for prosecution for "separatism" and "sabotaging national unity," in undated photo.

The writers' group PEN America has called on China to release ethnic Mongolian author Lhamjab A. Borjigin, who was detained by authorities on July 11 on charges of "separatism" and "sabotaging national unity."

"The charges are apparently related to Borjigin’s work as a historical researcher and writer specializing in testimonies of the Cultural Revolution," the group said in a statement on its website.

"Borjigin has rejected the charges pending against him, saying that he has only written the historical truth."

Borjigin, 74, is being held under house arrest pending prosecution in connection with his 2006 book, "China’s Cultural Revolution," an account based on oral testimonies of survivors.

"PEN America calls upon the Chinese government to drop these intended charges and to release Borjigin from house arrest," Summer Lopez, Senior Director for Free Expression Programs, said in the statement.

Borjigin's house arrest comes as the U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to end "human rights violations, systematic and institutionalized discrimination" against ethnic Mongolians within China's borders, as well as longstanding policies aimed at ending their traditional, nomadic way of life.

In a submission to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is currently reviewing Beijing's record, SMHRIC called on the Chinese government to release all ethnic Mongolian prisoners of conscience, including members of herding communities who have been "arbitrarily arrested, detained, and imprisoned for defending their grazing land from illegal appropriation."

The group is calling for the immediate withdrawal of all "extractive industries, tourist companies and power plants that not only occupy and appropriate large tracts of Mongolian grazing lands, but also devastate the ecosystem, deplete the underground water and pollute the air and water."

It is also campaigning against the Chinese authorities’ "massive propaganda campaign to justify their destruction of nomadic civilization and ... the natural environment."

Chinese government policies, the group said, are "based on deep-seated discrimination that characterizes Mongolian pastoralism as 'backward, archaic, unscientific and uncivilized' way of life and advertises the Chinese way of life as 'advanced, civilized and scientific'."

The authorities should also prosecute "hate crimes and hate speech by Chinese individuals, private or public entities and government bodies against Mongolian language, customs, tradition, way of life and identity," it said.

Mining clash

Earlier this month, herders in Inner Mongolia's Jalaid banner clashed with hired personnel sent by a Chinese-owned company accused by local residents of polluting the local grasslands, according to ethnic Mongolian activist Xinna, whose husband Hada is a prominent prisoner of conscience and rights activist.

"There are pollution problems there, and the rights of the local people have been violated," she said in an interview on July 19. "They have opened up a mine and dammed the river."

"The local people rebelled, because they carried on excavating even though the mine had been banned," Xinna said.

Calls to local government offices in the Bayan Ulan Som, or village, rang unanswered on the same day.

Mongolian rights activist Xi Haiming, who now lives in Germany, said the Bayan Ulan Som clashes aren't an isolated incident in the region.

"This is a phenomenon that has occurred during the continuing plunder of mineral resources in recent years," Xi said.

"This mine was originally blocked due to complaints from local people, but now corrupt officials at lower levels of government are in cahoots with profiteers, and are using criminal gangs to seize the herders' grazing lands by force," he said.

Xi called on the international community to pay closer attention to the plight of ethnic Mongolians in China.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.