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Wife of Jailed Mongol Fights Lonely Battle

May 19, 2009
Agence France-Presse
By Shi-ren Hou

Off a narrow street here in the capital of Inner Mongolia, a middle-aged woman who may well be China's most feared bookstore owner fights a lonely fight.

Xinna says that since 1995 she has endured tight controls and harassment by anxious authorities while publicising the plight of her ethnic Mongolian community under China as she awaits the release of her jailed dissident husband, Hada.

"The police came by the other day and asked if I was all right, if I had any difficulties," Xinna, 52, said over a traditional meal of roast lamb near her Mongolian bookstore in Hohhot.

"I said, 'You know what difficulties I'm under. You created them,'" said the blunt-spoken former philosophy professor.

Many of China's roughly six million ethnic Mongols complain of political and cultural repression, saying they have been forgotten by a world preoccupied with similar troubles in Tibet.

Xinna, who like many Mongols goes by one name, has become a focus of this dissent following the 1995 jailing of Hada, perhaps the best-known Mongolian dissident.

His case highlights the dangers of speaking out against China's tight control of ethnic minorities.

One of China's longest-jailed prisoners of conscience, Hada, now 53, was sentenced to 15 years after organising demonstrations for Mongol rights as head of the underground Southern Mongolian Democracy Alliance.

The dissident writer has endured torture, beatings by Han Chinese inmates, denial of proper food and medical treatment for serious illnesses, even basics like pens, paper, newspapers, and books, said Xinna.

"They have been brutal. They want to break him," she said.

She waits with guarded hope that China will release him as scheduled on Dec. 10, 2010.

"That's International Human Rights Day. How fitting," she says with a smile, sitting under a framed image of Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan.

Xinna has herself been detained twice and blacklisted from university positions. After Hada's arrest, authorities shut down and demolished the family bookstore in Hohhot, once a symbol of Mongolian consciousness.

In 1999, Xinna was allowed to open the current store, much smaller and with tighter restrictions on its merchandise. The family income has been slashed.

Their son Uiles, now 25, was jailed for three years from 2002 on robbery charges Xinna says were trumped up, and is blocked from attending university or gaining employment.

"They say: 'That is Hada's son.' So, from the start, no one wants him," Xinna said in her rapid-fire Mandarin.




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