Jun 9, 2020
On June 5, 2020, the People’s Court of Heshigten Banner of Southern (Inner) Mongolia tried two Mongolian activists, Mr. Tsogjil and Mr. Haschuluu, who organized local Mongolian herders to protest the government’s illegal appropriation of their grazing land. Jail sentences of eight months and four months were handed down to Tsogjil and Haschuluu respectively for “rallying the public to petition the government, obstructing official business, videotaping and posting untrue stories, and transferring edited video footage to foreign organizations.”
“Defendant Tsogjil, male, born on March 4, 1979” and “defendant Haschuluu, male, born on October 23, 1978” were sentenced for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to the criminal verdict issued by the Heshigten Banner People’s Court.
“Criminal tools used: one long banner and one cellular phone that were already confiscated,” the verdict added.
“They are totally innocent,” Mr. O. Sechenbaatar, who himself was released from a year of house arrest recently after being detained for two weeks for supporting the protest in the neighboring Ongniuud Banner, said in an audio statement. “What they did was nothing but to legally file complaints about the local government’s illegal land grab and stage protests to urge the local Public Security Bureau to release detained herders and activists including myself.”
Under the Chinese authorities’ “bail pending trial” for over a year, the two activists were deprived of their basic rights to mobility and communication after being released from their initial detention last year.
“The trial was carried out pretty much behind a closed door,” O. Sechenbaatar told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. “The crimes they were accused of committing were rallying people to demand the release of detained herders; inviting Ms. Yanjindulam (also knowns as Naranhuaar), a herder’s leader, to join the protest; posting protest video footage on WeChat and sending information to foreign hostile forces.”
Tsogjil, a native of Heshigten Banner, had actively been advocating Southern Mongolians’ rights to use their native language; access their land, water, and other resources; and maintain national identity. He founded and managed at least five discussion groups with a total membership of nearly 2,500 Mongolian herders and grassroots activists on China’s only available social media outlet WeChat.
Before his arrest in April 2019, Tsogjil rallied the Mongolian herders for the release of the detained writer O. Sechenbaatar in one of his WeChat discussion groups called “Language, Livestock, and National Boundary.” “I ask our fellow herders from each and every village to gather in front of the banner government tomorrow to demand the immediate release of O. Sechenbaatar,” he wrote.
“O. Sechenbaatar went to jail for defending our land and rights. We all must wake up and take up the fight to protect our homeland,” Tsogjil said in the discussion group. “The authorities can arrest one of us, a few of us, but cannot arrest all of us.”
“Haschuluu was accused of committing similar crimes, including his involvement in last year’s public protest in front of the banner government and demanding my release,” O. Sechenbaatar said.
“What is truly revealing is the family members of the two were told by the court that the decision was handed down from the above. This means the government is above the law, and the law is a tool for the government officials to punish those who protest the government’s abuse of power,” O. Sechenbaatar added.
According to online discussions posted by local herders from Heshigten Banner, Haschuluu lived with his 80-year-old mother who is left without anyone’s care after his trial despite her poor health.