A prominent ethnic Mongolian writer has had his home raided and is now being held there under tight surveillance after spending 20 days in detention. Overseas dissidents say China is cracking down on any ethnic minority groups in an attempt to blanket out any form of separatist sentiment ahead of this summer's Olympic Games.
Authorities released journalist and Web site editor Naranbilig, who is known by a single name, on April 12 after detaining him initially for 20 days. Police also searched his home, confiscating a computer, notebooks, and passport.
The New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center reports that Naranbilig, a former Mongolian-language magazine editor, now remains under tight surveillance at his home in Inner Mongolian capital, Hohhot.
He must also report to the authorities if he wishes to make any movements, the group said.
U.S.-based Mongolian dissident Xi Haiming, whose Mongolian name is Temtselt Shobshuud, said Chinese authorities had stepped up controls in Inner Mongolia, where only 12 percent of the population is ethnically Mongol, since the beginning of 2008.
“One of China’s most senior leaders, [Politburo standing committee member] Zhou Yongkang, has said that the ‘strike hard’ campaign will be implemented before the Olympics,” said Xi, who attended university in Hohhot with Naranbilig in the 1980s.
“He said they would particularly strike hard at ‘separatists’ in ethnic minority areas,” said Xi, who fled to the United States and founded the Inner Mongolian People’s Party (IMPP) to work for independence for Inner Mongolia in 1997.
“Maybe we are labeled as separatists. It is reasonable to expect that Inner Mongolian authorities will carry out this instruction,” said Xi, who discussed establishing the IMPP with fellow Hohhot students Naranbilig, Wang Manglai, and Hada during the 1980s.
Meanwhile, New York-based rights activist Liu Qing was unsurprised to learn of Naranbilig’s detention, given Beijing’s readiness to bring any potentially unstable factors under control ahead of the Olympics.
“Chinese authorities have continually cracked down on separatists in Inner Mongolia. I think the government is now tightening controls everywhere, including minority areas,” he said.
Chinese security attention has focused mainly on areas with large Tibetan populations following unrest that began in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on March 14.
But it has also moved to suppress isolated pockets of anti-government feeling in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to several million Muslim Uyghurs.
Naranbilig was editor-in-chief of the Mongolian-language magazine Golonte, or Hearth, which focused on Mongolian family and health issues, from 2005-2006. It was closed down by officials after publishing only five editions.
Perhaps the best-known Inner Mongolian dissident is Hada, former owner of a Mongolian studies bookshop who was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for incitement of espionage and separatism for his work with the opposition Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance.
In 1992, Hada formed what would later become the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance (SMDA) with fellow activist Tegexi. SMDA later set out its main mission as “opposing colonization by the Han people and striving for self-determination, freedom and democracy in Southern [Inner] Mongolia.”
Hada is now in the twelfth year of his jail term in Chifeng Prison. Human rights activists say he has been tortured in jail and his health is failing.
“Hada has been routinely abused and brutalized as well as subjected to disciplinary punishments. He has been denied the liberties generally afforded to other prisoners as well as proper medical attention and regular contact with his family,” the New York-based Human Rights in China said in April.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Shi Shan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Jia Yuan. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.