BATOR, Tuesday 31 August 2010 (AFP) - Bat -- a
softly-spoken, smartly dressed 24-year-old Mongolian
educated in Moscow -- points to the screen saver on his
mobile phone with pride. It's a picture of the skull of a
German SS officer.
the somewhat unlikely face of Dayar Mongol, one of three
registered ultra-nationalist groups in Mongolia which
sometimes take their cue from neo-Nazi outfits in Europe.
number one for the xenophobic organisations is the
landlocked country's neighbour to the south -- China.
have 50 trained fighters whose job is to hunt down Chinese
living in Mongolia and some Mongolians who have Chinese
fathers," Bat said in an interview in the capital Ulan
reject their blood and their culture." Members of his group
had assaulted Chinese nationals, he said.
Mongolia, a former Soviet satellite state wedged between
China and Russia, has struggled to develop its economy since
turning to capitalism two decades ago, and remains one of
the poorest nations in Asia.
rich deposits of copper, gold, uranium, silver and oil have
caught the eye of foreign investors, sparking hopes for a
brighter future, but members of groups such as Dayar Mongol
reject any outside economic or cultural influence.
can't just give Mongolia to the Chinese people. We are
protecting it from them," said Bat, who claims to have 300
active members in his group, which he revived in 2005 after
it had lain dormant for several years.
says Dayar Mongol also targets Mongolian women who have sex
with Chinese men by shaving their heads, and sometimes
tattooing their foreheads -- in an eerie parallel to the
numbers tattooed on Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz.
crimes of such groups have not gone unnoticed abroad -- the
US State Department has warned travellers about an
"increased number of xenophobic attacks against foreign
nationals" since the spring of 2010.
"Nationalist groups frequently mistake Asian-Americans for
ethnic Chinese or Koreans and may attack without warning or
provocation," it says on its website.
Chinese nationals have been killed in Ulan Bator this year,
police have said, adding that the murder of a Mongolian by a
Chinese citizen outside the capital was the "reason that
ultra-nationalist group have become more active".
Bille, who is doing research at Cambridge University on
Mongolian attitudes towards China, said the xenophobia can
be traced back to the country's past under Moscow's thumb.
anti-Chinese sentiments are a direct product of the
Socialist period," he told AFP. "Russians regularly used the
'threat of China' to ensure the Mongols' allegiance."
the Soviet Union crumbled and Mongolia began its transition
to becoming a market economy, the country's traditionally
nomadic society fell apart, leaving poor social services and
education, and growing social disparities.
Moscow is still perceived in a favourable light -- both
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin visited Mongolia last year -- Beijing has
come in for public scorn.
"Increased Chinese influence in Mongolia in mining and
construction has mainly contributed to a rise in nationalist
sentiments," said Shurkhuu Dorj, of the Institute of
International Studies at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.
Mongolians, also mindful of China's 200-year rule over Ulan
Bator under the Manchu dynasty, are worried about China's
wider ambitions, even if funding from Beijing could bring on
a new age of prosperity, experts say.
"Clearly, they don't want the country to be an economic
suburb of Beijing," Graeme Hancock, an expert on the mining
industry for the World Bank, told AFP.
also want to be making their own decisions, not at the whim
of foreign jurisdiction."
said while he believes the groups had hundreds, not
thousands, of members, they still represent a real threat.
vigilante actions against law-breaking outsiders, mainly
Chinese, could meet broad support in the country," Dorj
is a serious danger."