SMHRIC: Herders protest, demanding return of grazing land

July 22, 2020
New York

Herders protest, demanding return of grazing land

Following a two-month protest, on July 21, 2020, more than 300 Mongolian herders from Bayan-uul Sum (a sum is an administrative unit equivalent to a township) of Southern (Inner) Mongolia’s Bairin Left Banner (a banner is an administrative unit equivalent to a county) gathered again in front of the banner government building in Lindong City.

Holding large signs reading, “We want justice. Return our legal rights,” “We strongly protest government officials ganging up with thugs to oppress the people!” “We strongly protest government officials disregarding laws to destroy people’s livelihoods!” and “Bairin Left Banner Government must return our legal rights,” herders demanded an immediate response from the banner governor.

The local police and SWAT team were deployed to block the herders from accessing the government building. Representatives of the herders were pushed back by the SWAT team when attempting to get through the city hall entrance to meet the governor.

“We are herders from Bayan-uul Sum, gathering here today to urge the government to answer our demand,” a herder told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center via a WeChat message. “The government is abusing its power to bully the herders and destroying our land and livelihoods.”

“The banner government illegally appropriated our grazing land under the name of nature conservation project without our consent. We will defend our ancestral land at any cost,” another herder said in a video clip.

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.

Starting in late May, the herders of Bayan-uul Sum organized themselves to stage protests and petitions on daily basis. During a protest on June 1, herders were pepper-sprayed and beaten up by local public security personnel and riot police while marching toward the government capital. Nearly 200 were arrested or detained.

In February, the banner government sent a notice to the herders of Bayan-uul Sum about the planned appropriation of grazing land for a national project of nature conservation. Herders from all 13 gachaa (a gachaa is an administrative unit comprised of several villages) sent their representatives to the sum and banner governments to protest the illegal appropriation.

According to communications from the local herders, the Bairin Left Banner Government has already received a large amount of funds from the higher levels of government after sending a falsified proposal that inflated the total area of land to meet the national nature conservancy requirement.

“The banner government is robbing our land in order to benefit from the so-called ‘national nature conversation project,’ disregarding our legal rights. We will fight to the end until justice is done,” another herder said in an audio statement to SMHRIC via WeChat.

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