Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have detained at least 8,000 ethnic Mongolians amid regionwide resistance to plans to phase out the use of the Mongolian language in schools.
“An estimated 8,000–10,000 [ethnic] Mongolians have been placed under some form of police custody since late August,” the New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in a statement on its website.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has carried out mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, house arrests, and “intensive training” across the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia, after parents and students organized a region-wide class boycott and took to the streets in protest at changes to the curriculum, sources in the region and overseas rights activists have said.
Khubis, an ethnic Mongolian activist living in Japan, told RFA that rights lawyer Hu Baolong and activist Yang Jindulima remain in custody.
He said some detainees have refused officially appointed lawyers, in the hope of appointing a defense attorney of their own.
Hu was detained by police in his home city of Tongliao along with at least eight others on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge often used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
U.S.-based ethnic Mongolian Nomin, a former colleague of Hu’s, said she had been unable to get in touch directly with anyone connected with Hu or Yang.
Yang hails from Abag Banner in Shilingol League, which borders Mongolia.
“I talked to Yang [before the protests], and she told me she wouldn’t be taking part because she had just gotten married,” Nomin said. “She had opened a restaurant in Xilinhot, but the police still had her under constant surveillance.”
“A couple of police officers would just go and sit in her restaurant every day without saying anything,” she said.
The authorities have also fired ethnic Mongolian parents, blacklisted and expelled their children, confiscated assets, and denied bank loans to protesting parents, SMHRIC said.
Local governments, party committees, Communist Youth Leagues, state prosecutors, and courts have issued wanted notices across the region for anyone engaging in protest activity, it said.
“The Chinese regime has really shown its weakness, ineffectiveness, and arbitrariness before this massive nonviolent civil disobedience,” group director Enghebatu Togochog said.
“It is laughable that five different authorities including the court and procuratorates, who really have no business in this matter, piled up their rubber stamps on a single document to intimidate Mongolians,” he said.
Prominent dissidents detained
Among the thousands placed in some form of detention are prominent ethnic Mongolian dissidents and their families, rights activists, writers, lawyers, and leaders of traditional herding communities.
Ethnic Mongolian dissident writer Hada, who remains under house arrest following a 15-year jail term for “espionage” and “separatism,” is now completely incommunicado, while the whereabouts of his activist wife Xinna and the couple’s grown son Uiles are currently unknown, SMHRIC said.