Hada answers Hindustan Times reporter Sutirtho Patranobis’s interview
English translation by SMHRIC
June 27, 2015
Sutirtho: Can you share with me and my readers about your experience in jail? How were you treated? Some reports say that you had been tortured. Is it true? What methods did the police apply? What were your living conditions in the first 15 years? Did the conditions improve in any way during the last four years?
Hada: The main objective [of the Chinese authorities] during the 19 years I was in prison was to force me through physical and mental torture to admit to alleged crimes. As a result, I became physically disabled suffering from multiple complications. All kinds of torture methods including use of toxic drugs were applied to break me down mentally to force me to write some statements of their choosing. On two occasions, I was placed under solidarity confinement for 99 days in total. Not only was I tortured in prison far away from my home, but also my family suffered a great deal during those 15 plus years Their objective was to isolate me from my loved ones to break me down. What is even more egregious was that following the 15 years of imprisonment, they threw me into a “black jail” and persecuted my wife and son on trumped-up charges. Could this be called improved treatment? Needless to say, it was not. Rather this should be considered a further violation of laws and rights.
Sutirtho: What do you have to say about the charges that were brought against you?
Hada: There were ethnic repressions widespread in Southern Mongolia at that time. Specific evidence of this include the steady flow of Chinese immigration to Southern Mongolia, cultivation of the grasslands for agricultural purpose, forceful assimilation of the Mongolian population, gradual deprivation of the autonomous rights of the Mongolians, mass unemployment of Mongolian students, desertification of the grasslands and increasingly disastrous sandstorms and so on. In summary, the very existence of the Mongolians as a distinct people was under threat, and the traditional culture was dying out. Under these circumstances, the government criminalized the activities of the Mongolian intellectuals who organized themselves to save the national culture. History and events testify to the fact that we were not guilty of any crimes, rather the government has committed serious crimes.
Sutirtho: What kind of routine did you have in jail? Did you have access to books and reading material? How did you spend your time?
Hada: The prison authorities had always been consistent in stating that I would be exempt from hard labor and would be treated well including access to books and television if I were to admit to the alleged crimes. They told me that the reason why they were keeping me in prison was not for putting me under reeducation through labor but was to have me admit to the crimes I allegedly committed. They even deliberately treated me better for short periods of time as an incentive. Despite these I never wavered in my beliefs. Then they attempted to break me down with unbearable hard labor. Violating their own prison law, the authorities forced me to engage in hard labor day and night, causing severe injury to my spinal discs. On cold winter days, they forced me to wake up before dawn to clean up the prison yard, causing serious injury of the nerves to my legs that were exposed to freezing cold during this period of time. During the entire period of imprisonment, I had a dozen major health problems which still exist and are unlikely to be cured.
Sutirtho: Did the authorities try to brainwash you?
Hada: During the 15 years of imprisonment, [the authorities] repeatedly attempted to force me to change my thoughts and beliefs. They told me over and over that my main goal should be to change what I think and what I believe. In Chinese prisons, there is a popular song with the lyrics of “the goal of prison is to change thoughts and beliefs”. Again during the four years of extrajudicial imprisonment in the “black jail”, they attempted to force me to give up my thoughts and beliefs, to be obedient, to cooperate with them and to be subservient to the Chinese Communist Party. They repeatedly told me that the only hope lies in following what the Communist Party says, and the United States and Europe are unable to save us. It is clear that forced brainwashing will not end so long as the dictatorial regimes do not fall apart.
Sutirtho: What about food? Did the authorities ensure that you got regular meals in jail?
Hada: Food in prison was extremely inferior in quality. This was especially the case during the 15 years of imprisonment. At some point the food quality was improved slightly. Yet, the majority of the inmates complained they were unable to eat it. Over the first two thirds of the 15 years imprisonment, I was not provided with any food and hot water. I had to buy food with the money sent from my family to survive this long period of time. This was because I refused to give up my thoughts and beliefs. This was the case even when I was completely worn out and unable to move due to extreme hard labor. I would not have survived those hardships without the support of my family. Even during the last four years of extrajudicial imprisonment, the amount and choice of food was restricted.
Sutirtho: Did your family and legal team have regular access to you? Reports that said you suffered from serious medical conditions. What kind of conditions were those? Did you have access to proper medical treatment?
Hada: During the 15 years of imprisonment, my family members were allowed only sporadic visitation rights. Serious health problems had consistently been left untreated. In extreme cases, some medical treatment was reluctantly provided if the inmates were able to pay for it despite the fact that prisoners’ medical treatment must be paid by the government in accordance with prison laws. In the last four years, prison visits by my family members were also strictly limited. In some cases, more than a year passed between family prison visits. No matter who came to visit me, they were thoroughly searched and sometimes even had to undergo a strip search. This was again an attempt to isolate me from others to break me down.
Sutirtho: Your wife, son and extended family also faced serious problems in the time you were in jail. How did they cope? Apparently, the authorities tried to bribe them. Is that true?
Hada: Over the past 19 years, my wife was arrested multiple times. The latest arrest resulted in a 3-yearjail term with 5 years reprieve which has not expired yet. Our bookstore had been shutdown numerous times. It is still closed today. My family had no choice but to make ends meet with money borrowed from others. My son was expelled from school under a false accusation, and was sentenced twice on trumped-up charges. He has been barred from being employed even for temporary jobs, making him unable to be independent. Besides these, my family and I had also overcome many other difficulties and hardships. The authorities had never stopped promising a good life in exchange for our cooperation over these 19 years. None of us accepted their offer. They are still trying.
Sutirtho: How have these 19 years in jail and detention changed you as a person? Are you now more determined to follow your ideals of protecting the unique culture and identity of your community?
Hada: In 1992, the main reason why my organization’s name was changed to “Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance” was that we realized that democracy, freedom and human rights would be an unstoppable historical trend after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc countries. I wrote a number of articles about this at that time. Although I had been worried about the deteriorating situation in China and Southern Mongolia during my 19 years imprisonment, the beliefs I formed in 1992 have never been shaken. I believe the developing trend of international communities is becoming more and more favorable to us. Therefore, my determination to dedicate my entire life to the cause of the Southern Mongolians has never weakened owing to my firm belief that there must be a solution to the Southern Mongolia question. Just because of this, I am still continuing my struggle after my release from prison.
Sutirtho: You personally – and your wife and son – have experienced the might of the Chinese government. Do you think it is possible for an individual to carry this fight on?
Hada: The all three members of our family have been subjected to a series of persecutions. The persecution is still continuing. Yet, I don’t think it is impossible for an individual to fight against a government. It is common for governments to violate laws and commit crimes. This is especially true with authoritarian regimes that often times oppress not only other nationalities but also their own people. So fighting a regime is not an easy task. In other words, one must be prepared for huge losses and suffering which many people are afraid of. It is not an easy undertaking for an individual or a family to fight a regime and claim victory. Yet, not everything should be measured with success or failure. Whether one pursues justice or not, whether one takes up historic responsibilities that each of us bears also need to be taken into account. Every nation or people cannot be without some of this type of individual, as few as they may be.
Sutirtho: What are your next steps? Even after your release from jail, do you have the freedom of movement and expression?
Hada: I will continue to fight against ethnic repression and strive for genuine autonomy for the Southern Mongolians. As a first step, I will file legal complaints for the four years extrajudicial detention, false accusations and persecutions against my wife and son, the shutdown of our bookstore and the retaliation against my attorney. Then, I will file a lawsuit against the parties responsible for the unjust trial and unfair sentence of 15 years in jail. In fact, my legal complaints and lawsuits themselves are a form of struggle against ethnic repression. At the same time, I will learn how to use a computer and the Internet to have a better understanding of what is happening around the world. It is impossible for those who fight for the future and interest of their nation that is oppressed by a dictatorial regime to have real freedoms before the nation itself is completely freed.
Sutirtho: What are main issues or problems that Inner Mongolians face currently?
Hada: The most critical issue the Southern Mongolians are facing is how to achieve genuine autonomy. The main reason why there existed serious ethnic repressions in Southern Mongolia is that the Southern Mongolians have completely been deprived of their political rights and right to autonomy. It continues to deteriorate now. This is the exact reason why we had changed our organization’s name from the Southern Mongolian Cultural Enlightenment Conference to the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance. As you might know, since the Southern Mongolians have long become an absolute minority and de facto second class citizens on their own land, they have been deprived of their right to manage their own state affairs independently. This problem can be resolved only if all Southern Mongolians make up their minds to fight hard with all their might and energy with the strong support of justice seeking people from around the world.
Sutirtho: The situation in Inner Mongolia seems to be more peaceful than in Xinjiang (which is witnessing increasing ethnic violence) or even Tibet (nearly 130 cases of self-immolation). How is the situation in Inner Mongolia different from these two places? Are the government policies for your province different or better than in Xinjiang and Tibet?
Hada: The Southern Mongolians have already established their own political parties and fought for autonomy for 90 years. Although the struggle has failed repeatedly, the spirit and determination of the Southern Mongolians have never faded away. As the situation of Southern Mongolia is at its lowest point, Southern Mongolians have taken the path of peaceful means to achieve autonomy. However, as a result of the Chinese authorities’ heavy-handed policies, brutal repressions, and gradual deprivation of autonomy rights, Southern Mongolia have become a nation of slaves. The Tibetans and Uyghurs who have witnessed this tragedy have decided to choose their own path.
Sutirtho: Do you think that Beijing has any plan or intention to address the issues plaguing the Mongolian people?
Hada: Beijing publicly claims that there is no problem in Southern Mongolia and advertizes to the world that the situations in Southern Mongolia are fairly plausible. Therefore, what can we expect from them to resolve our issues? In fact, it is evident that Beijing firmly believes that Southern Mongolians will fight to gain their autonomy, independence or even unification with the independent country of Mongolia if they do not speed up their assimilation process. Therefore, they are trying all possible means to accelerate their assimilation. The root cause of the deteriorating ethnic problems during the past six decades is nothing but the Beijing regime itself. Thanks to the strong backing from Beijing, local officials are not only free from any liability even if they abuse the Southern Mongolians at will, but also are rewarded with wealth and promotion of rank.
Sutirtho: Could you please share something about your life and times before the ordeal of jail and detention began in the mid 1990s? How has the world changed since the time you were dispatched to jail and now?
Prior to my arrest, our family life was relatively good. During these 19 years, the economy has improved in China. Yet, the authoritarian regime remains untouched. The reason is that there has been no political reform at all while a series of economic reforms took place. Especially since the so-called “Western Development” project was launched, the Beijing regime deliberately blended ethnic problems with economic issues, solely pursuing economic growth through unscrupulous plundering of natural resources in ethnic minority regions. As a result of further deprivation of autonomous rights, ethnic problems have steadily escalated. History testifies that authoritarian regimes have no ability to resolve ethnic problems.