May 21, 2021
On May 13, 2021, six herders from the Tevseg Township of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Horchin Right Wing Front Banner were arrested for protesting a land grab by Chinese peasants and local authorities. The arrested herders have been identified as Ms. Tsetsenchimeg, Mr. Tumurbagan, Mr. Davharbayar, Mr. Juramt, Mr. Hongjin, and Mr. Hurtsaa.
According to other herders from the local community, the six were taken away from their homes on the evening of May 13 by the local Public Security authorities. The whereabouts of the detainees remain unknown. Their relatives have been denied the right to visit and communicate with the detainees.
“Tsetsemchimeg is my sister,” Mr. Baljiinyam Bayaguud, an exiled dissident who currently lives in the independent country of Mongolia, told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHIRC). “Before I escaped the persecution to leave Southern Mongolia, I was also one of the organizers of this protest that started five years ago.”
Mr. Bayaguud told the SMHIRC that in 2016, the local authorities of Tevseg Township and Araliin-Ehi Gachaa (an administration unit comprised of several villages) arbitrarily seized a large swathe of traditional grazing land used by more than 100 herders’ households and sold it to Chinese peasants and Chinese construction companies.
According to a written complaint sent to the local environmental protection authorities, the Tevseg Township Land Management Bureau mobilized a construction team to “illegally open gravel pits, seriously destroying the natural environment.”
“A large number of trees have been cut down and roads have been built for transportation without our consent,” the complaint states. “Herders complained to the Gachaa party secretary, who promised to halt the gravel extraction by August 24, 2020.”
The local authorities failed to keep their promise. “Illegal extraction intensified and the production has doubled, causing further damage to the environment,” said the complaint, dated August 28, 2020.
“Pastoralism is virtually impossible in my home place thanks to the Chinese authorities’ systematic confiscation of grazing lands,” Mr. Bayaguud said.