As China’s pre-Olympics crackdown intensifies in Southern (Inner) Mongolia, a young ethnic Mongolian businessman named Burildguun, 35 years old, was arrested by the Eveenkh Banner (“E Wen Ke Qi” in Chinese) State Security Bureau personnel during his trip to attend a Traditional Mongolian Chess Competition in the said Banner on July 29, 2008, for alleged links to overseas “separatists”. Native of New Barag Right Banner (“Xin Ba Er Hu You Qi” in Chinese) of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Hailaar Municipality, Mr. Burildguun, along with his wife Sarnaa, owned two souvenir shops named “Toonot Nutug Mongolian Artworks” in the Banner capital Altan-Emeel Town.
To further investigate the circumstances of the arrest, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) conducted a phone interview with Ms. Sarnaa. The following is what Sarnaa told the SMHRIC about her husband’s arrest:
My name is Sarnaa, and my husband’s name is Burildguun. He is 35 years old. We own and run two souvenir shops with the same name of “Toonot Nutug Mongolian Artworks” in Altan-Emeel Town. We sell Mongolian artworks as well as books and music CDs.
On July 29, around 6:00 pm, I was told by the State Security Bureau of Eveenkh Banner over the phone that my husband had been arrested on July 29 at 10:00 am in Eveenkh Banner at a Mongolian Traditional Chess Competition. When I asked them what the reason for my husband’s arrest is, they said this is “confidential”. After a brief conversation, they switched the phone to my husband. Apparently, he was under the State Security Bureau’s control and told me that he was arrested without a clear reason. He told me that he is innocent and will not plea guilty.
On the next day, July 30, around 10:00 am, four people, two from the Hailaar Municipality State Security Bureau and two from the Altan-Emeel State Security Bureau, came to my store. Upon walking in the store, they briefly identified themselves, and asked me to close the door, halt the business, and turn off the cell phone. They thoroughly searched my store for almost 3 hours, and confiscated our two computers’ hard disks and our passports. When I asked them why they were doing this and what crime my husband committed, they did not explain but said that they have enough evidence of what my husband did.
Then they started questioning me. They asked me if my husband has any connection with the Inner Mongolian People’s Party and its members. I told them I know about the former Inner Mongolian People’s Party event during which thousands of Mongols were killed during the Cultural Revolution. They said I am “not cooperating” with them and avoiding what they were asking about. They checked our passports very carefully and asked me why we visited Mongolia so often. I told them that we went to Mongolia often because we imported Mongolian traditional handcrafts and artworks from there. They laughed. They asked me if we went to Beijing recently and if we met with any Mongolian people there. I said we did go to Beijing for business but did not have time to see our friends there, and I asked them what is wrong with going to Beijing and seeing friends there. They did not answer. In turn they asked me if we went to Harbin, capital city of the neighboring Harmuren (“Hei Long Jiang” in Chinese) Province. When I said yes and asked them again what is wrong with going to Harbin then, they said they know everything about our trips including what hotel we stayed, who we met with and what business we did. I was shocked that we innocent Mongols, in fact, have been treated as criminal suspects and closely monitored by the Chinese State Security authorities.
They asked more questions about the Inner Mongolian People’s Party (IMPP) which according to them is an overseas separatist organization working to split the country. They asked me if my husband ever mentioned anything about the IMPP to me by chance. When I said no, they accused me of “not cooperating” again for the investigation. Apparently they are trying to link my husband to the IMPP, and the so-called “cooperation” means that I should say my husband indeed has some connection with IMPP so that they can use this to force my husband to plead guilty even though in fact my husband has no connection with IMPP at all. They even mentioned some names of Mongolian individuals who went into exile in Mongolia and asked me if I or my husband know them.
Then they started threatening me: “Don’t tell anything about this to anybody in overseas or any news media. If you choose to reveal anything about this to any foreigner, your husband will pay the price. Your store, you and your family will pay the price.” Then, they forced me to promise to accept this condition. I said no, because arresting my husband without any legal ground is already a violation of a citizen’s legal rights. Why should I allow them to continue to violate my right to free expression? They again said: “look, you are not cooperating!”
During the search, they saw the Mongolian books we sell, and said that this is the proof that we indeed have a strong “national sentiment”. I said: “yes. We are Mongols, and we love our culture and heritage. We are proud of being Mongols. If you think being a Mongol is a crime, then not only my husband but all Mongols are guilty.” Apparently, they didn’t like what I said and on leaving stated “You should not ruin your future!” as a warning.
Currently, I have no computer, no internet, no information on my husband’s whereabouts or state of health.
Ms. Sarnaa is seeking help from people around the world who might help publicize her husband’s case and to urge the Chinese authorities to release her husband immediately.
Ms. Sarnaa can be reached through her cell phone: 0086-138-4702-6747 or her home phone: 0086-470-646-3027. She speaks Mongolian and Chinese.