Ethnic Mongolian residents of northern China have clashed with police in recent days over plans to sell off areas of traditional grassland pasture for redevelopment, online sources said.
Police detained a truck driver after his vehicle plowed into a group of protesters from Haoletu and Xiwu townships in Xilin Gol league near the border with Mongolia, local residents said in posts on the Internet.
After midnight on May 10, a group of truck drivers being blocked by protesters cried "Charge!" and drove directly into the group blocking their path, the posts said.
Photos of the scene showed trucks halted on the grassland in low light.
Reports said one local herdsman named Morigen died at the scene.
The herdsmen had blocked the road after complaining of loud and reckless driving through their pastures by trucks belonging to a local mining company, according to a report on the Xiwu township government official website.
It said police had detained two truck drivers, Li Lindong and Lu Xiangdong, following the death of Morigen, 35.
A resident of Haoletu Gol township said the mining trucks had caused a lot of tension among local herders, some of whom depend on grazing animals for their livelihood.
"I heard about this [incident]," he said. "But you should talk to the herders over there [in Sarulagche village]."
"The clashes were caused by a dispute over trucks driving across the grassland."
The headman of Sarulagche village declined to comment on the incident, however.
"I'll talk to you in a few days," he said. "Things are still being sorted out here."
"The mining trucks have stopped for the time being."
Local reports said Morigen had left behind an elderly mother, wife, and two children, the youngest of whom is three years old.
The Chinese government has begun relocating more than 250,000 nomads from Inner Mongolia's grasslands in recent years, saying the move is necessary to protect the fragile ecosystem of the region.
The policy has been seen among ethnic Mongolians as further marginalization for Mongolian nomadic herders, who are already vastly outnumbered by Chinese peasants.
Since 1949, Inner Mongolia’s population has soared sixfold from 5.6 million to 23 million, putting a huge environmental strain on the grassland and turning it rapidly to desert.
The New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center says many of the herders are being resettled in agricultural or urban areas with a dominant Han Chinese population, with no suitable social, cultural, or language environment for ethnic Mongolians.
Currently, ethnic Mongols represent a tiny 17 percent of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region’s 23 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom are Han Chinese.
Reported by Ding Xiao for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.