Tibetan College Chief Sentenced

Chinese authorities, wary of ethnic unrest, rule against a man teaching Tibetan medicine in Inner Mongolia.

2011.02.01
batzangaa305.jpg Batzangaa (R), his wife Bayanhuaar (L), and daughter Chilguun (M) in Mongolia, 2009.
SMHRIC

A court in Inner Mongolia has handed a suspended jail term of three years for "economic crimes" to a Mongolian man who set up a college of traditional Tibetan medicine.

Batzangaa, 35, a Chinese national and ethnic Mongolian, was handed a three-year jail term, suspended for four years, by a court in the northern city of Ordos.

He said he believed the sentence was the result of political fears sparked by the Tibetan unrest which began in Lhasa in March 2008, spreading to other Tibetans regions of the country.

"They were very good about [the college] in 2007," said Batzangaa, who had developed a network of traditional Mongolian-Tibetan medical practitioners around the Inner Mongolian region of China.

"They even gave me lots of money. Then, in 2008, when the rebellion happened in Tibet, there was a very clear change."

"I guess the local leaders were afraid that something would happen. The officials who are posted here will get a black mark on their record if there are any incidents of a political nature [on their watch]," he said.

"Actually, I never did anything counterrevolutionary ... But they hounded me until I had no choice ... but to quit."

Divide-and-rule

Batzangaa's lawyer, Hohbuurige, said the sentence would be suspended for four years, during which Batzangaa must keep clear of any trouble with the authorities.

"We have already submitted an appeal," he said.

The Germany-based chairman of the exiled Inner Mongolian People's Party, Xi Haiming, said the Chinese government was anxious to stamp out any cultural ties between Mongolians and Tibetans following the ethnic unrest.

Xi said the ruling Communist Party had always adopted a policy of divide-and-rule against ethnic minority groups in China.

"At the time the authorities wanted them to remove the word 'Tibetan,' but [Batzangaa] refused," Xi said.

"The Communist Party is quite sensitive on this issue. They were afraid that there might be other motives behind the school, so they pursued him until he had to give it up."

Medical practitioner

According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), Batzangaa and his family were deported back to Ordos from Mongolia, an independent neighboring republic, with no apparent recourse to Mongolian legal proceedings to challenge the deportation order.

In 2001, Batzangaa established the Ordos Mongol-Tibetan Medical School in Dongsheng. The school enrolled more than 1,000 Mongolian students who began practicing Mongolian medicine, providing affordable, sometimes even free, medical treatment to poverty-stricken rural Mongolian communities.

Later, Batzangaa also set up the Affiliated Hospital of the Ordos Mongol-Tibetan Medical School with the coordination of the Henan County Mongol Tibetan Hospital in Khukhnuur province.

But the authorities put the school under surveillance, alarmed by growing ties between Tibetans and Mongolians, and canceled the school's land lease, citing "the authorities' suspicion and surveillance towards ethnic minorities" in its official documents, according to overseas rights groups.

Mongolian culture is closely bound up with Tibetan mythology and Buddhism.

Reported by An Pei for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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