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On the morning of June 1, 2020, more than 400 Mongolian herders from Bayan-uul Sum (a sum is an administrative unit equivalent to township) of Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Bairin Left Banner ( a banner is an administrative unit equivalent to county) marched toward the banner capital Lindong City in protest of the local government’s land grab in the name of nature conservancy. Nearly 200 were arrested on their way to the banner government by local police and SWAT teams. Many were pepper sprayed and beaten before being detained.
Bayan-uul Sum, located on the northern edge of Bairin Left Banner, has a piece of relatively well-preserved natural grassland where local Mongolian herders have struggled to maintain their traditional pastoralist way of life.
“This February, the banner government notified us that a national nature conservancy will be established on our grazing land,” a local herder named Geeligbuyan told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. “Herders from all 13 Gachaa of Bayan-uul Sum sent representatives twice to the regional capital Hohhot to express our protest.”
“We learned that the Autonomous Region Party Secretary Shi Taifeng is on an inspection tour to the banner capital today. More than 400 herders from all of our pastoralist communities across Bayan-uul Sum organized ourselves to show our protest to the local government and raise our concern to the regional party secretary,” Geeligbuyan said in an audio statement to the SMHRIC.
Video footage shows that protesters were stopped en route to the banner capital and taken away by police and security personnel.
“Look, this is how we are treated by police. Many of us innocent herders are pepper sprayed on our way to Lindong,” a protester said in a video clip showing a woman who was apparently suffering the effects of pepper spray.
Other footage shows that some herders were forcibly carried away and thrown into police vehicles before being taken to the local police station and the Bureau of Letters and Visits.
“We are locked up in here in the Bureau of Letters and Visits,” a protester said, showing dozens of others in a short video clip.
“Still hundreds of others were able to manage to get to Lindong and gathered before the banner government yesterday. I was one of them,” Geeligbuyan told the SMHRIC. “Today is June 2, the second day of our protest. At least 400-500 herders are on their way to protest.”
“Release the detained herders! Stop the arrests!” herders shouted in front of the government building in another clip.
“The Bairin Left Banner Government is lying to us. The so-called ‘national nature conservancy’ is just a pretext for grabbing our land, our ancestral land where we have lived for generations,” Geelingbuyan continued. “Land is our lifeline. Land is our last stronghold. We will fight to the end to defend our land.”