China demolishes Mongolian herders’ houses in freezing cold
January 8, 2016
Mongolian herders from Inget Gachaa, Tungnuur Som of Alshaa Left Banner attempting to block the officials from demolishing their properties (2016-01-04)
As the temperature drops to below 15 Celsius, Chinese authorities in western Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Alshaa Left Banner (“a la shan zuo qi” in Chinese), Alshaa Right Banner (“a la shan you qi” in Chinese) and Eznee Banner (“e ji na qi” in Chinese) launched a massive demolition project to start the New Year. Houses, fences and other infrastructure of the Mongolian herders in these areas have been bulldozed by the local authorities without free, prior and informed consent.
A short video clip that the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) received from the affected area of Alshaa Left Banner shows that helpless herders attempted to block the officials from demolishing their properties while a bulldozer tore down their house in the background.
“The local government officials simply told us that our houses and fences must be demolished as their bulldozers already started the demolition in our community,” a Mongolian herder named Tuyaa from Eznee Banner told SMHRIC in frustration over the phone. “How can we survive this freezing winter without shelters for ourselves and our livestock?”
“Bulldozers are not in my place yet, but we are determined to resist the demolition,” Tuyaa told SMHRIC. “This is our ancestral land. We have every right to live on our own land.”
According to an official document entitled “Proposal to Implement the Work for Remodeling and Renovating Buildings at Risk of Collapse in Rural Pastoralist and Farming Communities in Alshaa Right Banner” was issued recently by the Banner’s Party Committee. In Alshaa Right Banner alone, seven semi-pastoralist Gachaas (a “gachaa” consists of several villages), nine pastoralist Gachaas where livestock grazing is partially banned, and 24 pastoralist Gachaas where livestock grazing is completely banned are affected by the demolition project as part of the “Ten-Coverage Engineering”.
The so-called “Ten-Coverage Engineering” is a three-year showcase project by the Autonomous Region Government, aiming at “demolishing buildings at risk of collapse, guarantying safe drinking water, urbanization of rural communities, delivering electricity, radio and television services to all villages, developing school infrastructure, improving school safety, establishing standardized hygiene stations and cultural centers, setting up convenient supermarket chains in rural villages, and guarantying minimum pension for permanent residents in pastoralist and farming communities”.
The official aforementioned document proposes to carry out a speedy urbanization of rural Mongolian pastoralist communities with a very limited amount of lump-sum payments – as little as 10,000 yuan (approximately $1,500 USD) in some cases – for each household.
“This is nothing but a decisive move by the Chinese to wipe out our pastoralist culture and way of life through urbanization,” a Mongolian herder from the affected community named Dambaa said in a voice statement. “The heart of Mongolian culture and identity is pastoralism. Once our pastoralism is wiped out, naturally we will cease to exist as a distinct people.”
In the most recent case, on December 17, 2015, riding horses and camels, nearly 100 Mongolian herders from Eznee Banner took to the streets to urge the local government to protect herders’ legal rights and punish the Chinese from the neighboring province of Gansu for illegally occupying their grazing lands.
As China expedites its expropriation of the herders’ grazing lands and extraction of mineral resources in Southern Mongolia, the once beautiful verdant region of Alshaa has been targeted by China’s booming mining industries. The scarce and precious underground water system has been depleted, and the fragile ecosystem has been destroyed. The expanding Chinese mines and encroaching Chinese settlers are threatening the very existence of the unique culture of Mongolian camel herders in this area.