|March 20, 2013|
The following is a speech by Enghebatu Togochog, Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) at "Promoting Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom in East Turkistan, Tibet, Southern Mongolia and the People's Republic of China", a conference held in Geneva, Switzerland from March 11 to 13, 2013:
Ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Enghebatu Togochog. I represent the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, a New York based human rights organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of the Mongolian people in the Chinese occupied Southern Mongolia.
First of all, I would like to thank World Uyghur Congress, members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the Society for Threatened Peoples, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for making this event possible and providing us with a platform to talk about our human rights concerns as the government of China continues its policies of political repression, cultural eradication, economic exploitation, and environmental destruction in Southern Mongolia, East Turkistan and Tibet.
Let me begin by giving you a little bit historical background of Southern Mongolia. Home to 6 million indigenous Mongolian people, Southern Mongolia, commonly known as “Inner” Mongolia, has a broader territorial boundary than what maps indicate today as the so-called “Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region”.
It is a historical fact that Southern Mongolia had contributed tremendously to the nation building of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), referred to as Daichin Gurun in Mongolian. The Manchus in alliance with the Mongols established the Qing dynasty in 1644 following the defeat of the Ming forces. This historical alliance has served as the basis by which the Chinese states including the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China have sought to legitimize their territorial claim over Southern Mongolia.
When the Qing dynasty collapsed in 1911, both Southern and Northern Mongolia naturally concluded that their three-century long alliance with the Manchu state had ended and immediately declared independence. No one should be surprised that they began the process of rebuilding their own separate state of Mongolia at that point even in the face of Chinese threats and pressure to renounce independence. Despite military threats from Chinese warlords, almost all regions of Southern Mongolia rejected China’s territorial claim over Southern Mongolia and fought fiercely against a Chinese invasion.
In 1915, the Kyakhata Treaty was signed by the two neighboring regional powers China and Russia. In order to balance their geopolitical interests in the region, and ignoring Mongolia’s strong opposition, the terms of the treaty prevented Southern Mongolia from uniting with Northern Mongolia. Despite this treaty, the struggle for the independence and freedom of Southern Mongolia has never stopped.
In 1936, the Southern Mongolian Prince Demchugdongrov declared the independence of Southern Mongolia and named the government “Mongolian Military Government”. In 1937, the government was renamed as the “Mongolian United Autonomous Government”. In 1939, merging almost all Mongolian populated regions of central and western Southern Mongolia, the government was renamed as the “Mongolian Frontiers United Autonomous Government”.
The Mongolian Frontiers United Autonomous Government ceased to exist in 1945 following the invasion by Soviet red army forces as part of their Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. Yet, in the same year of 1945, the western part of Southern Mongolia again declared its independence, and named the state “People’s Republic of Southern Mongolia”. Recently, a copy of the original declaration of independence and the constitution of the People’s Republic of Southern Mongolia was found among the holdings of the National Central Archive of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
At the same time, the eastern part of Southern Mongolia also declared its independence and established the “Eastern Mongolian People’s Autonomous Government” and began issuing its own currency and created its own military force.
In 1946, both eastern and western Southern Mongolian autonomous governments established the “Southern Mongolian Joint Autonomous Movement”.
In 1947, under the influence of Communism, Southern Mongolia declared the establishment of an independent “Southern (Inner) Mongolia Autonomous Government”. It is noteworthy that it was two years before the declaration of the People’s Republic of China, and this government and this state of Southern Mongolia were totally independent and had no official relationship with the government of China.
In 1949, after the declaration of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, under military threat, Southern Mongolia was reduced to a so-called “Nationality Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia”. Thereafter, all autonomous and independent functions of Southern Mongolia were gradually abolished by the Chinese Government. However, it is worth mentioning that even until 1952, Southern Mongolians had their own military and currency which testify to the relative autonomy that Southern Mongolians had hoped to enjoy even minimally afterwards.
Since the 1950s, the Chinese authorities started waves of brutal round-ups including the so-called “peaceful Land Reform”, “purging the nationality rightists” and “unearthing national separatist treasonous groups” and so on.
Among all these political purges, one particular event must be given special emphasis. That is the massacre which took place under the name of “Purging the Inner Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party”, a well-planned state sponsored genocide against the entire population of Southern Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. It is estimated that at least 100,000 Southern Mongolians were killed, and at least 300,000 to 500,000 were tortured, maimed, and imprisoned during this period. The physical suffering, emotional trauma, and psychological devastation inflicted on us have had far-reaching impacts and haunting effects on the current political, socioeconomic, emotional and spiritual status of Southern Mongolians.
Many Chinese friends argue that the Southern Mongolians are not the only victims of the Chinese Communist regime. Yes, it is true that millions of others suffered under the brutality of CCP. But it is illogical and immoral to justify, legitimize, ignore or recommend to forget the wrongdoing of a murderer owing to his other murderous actions committed to other victims. Especially when the nature of the brutality towards the Mongols was unique in many ways.
After eliminating any possible left over resistance by Southern Mongolians through its genocide and ethnic cleansing during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Government started another form of genocide that we call “cultural genocide”, aimed at completely wiping out the entire Mongol population of Southern Mongolians as a distinct people through elimination of the indigenous Mongolian culture, language, traditions, way of life and identity.
Now in Southern Mongolia, under a government that touts the multiethnic multiculturalism of modern China as a virtue, here are the facts:
· Any form of peaceful expression of aspiration for human rights, national freedom and democracy is considered “national separatism” or acts of “endangering the state security”. Mr.Hada is still being held in a secret prison even after completing his 15 years jail term for expressing his political opinion on the self-determination of Southern Mongolia; Ms. Huuchinhuu is still kept incommunicado in an undisclosed location for her activism in defense of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of Southern Mongolians; many other Mongolian intellectuals, activists, dissidents, writers and their family members are under the authorities’ tight surveillance.
· Speaking the Mongolian language in public and social life is almost a taboo. Many companies and service industries prohibit their Mongolian employees from speaking in Mongolian due to “the courtesy towards customers”, implying that Mongolian language is dirty and impolite; those Mongolian students who were educated in Mongolian were excluded from employment opportunities.
· Emphasis of Mongolian culture and identity is considered a reactionary act that is undermining the “harmonious society” or “he xie she hui”, a new propagandistic term heard every where in China.
· Mongolian publications, Internet blogs and forums that discuss the concerns of Southern Mongolians are blocked and shutdown as “black spot” and “hot bed” of separatism. Hundreds of Mongolian Internet discussion forums, personal blogs and social media outlets have been shutdown for posting “sensitive” topics or “separatist contents”; thousands of books, magazines, musical CDs and other publications have either been banned or confiscated from retailers.
How has the traditional herding and nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols been affected? In short, the interests of state owned corporations have completely eclipsed any rights that Mongolian herders might have had to their grazing lands and pastures.
· State policy considers the Mongolian traditional way of life as “primitive” and “unscientific”, and therefore its elimination is justified.
· Attempts by various groups to protect and nurture the nomadic traditions of the Mongols have been summarily dismissed and denied.
· Herders who attempt to protect their grazing lands are labeled as vandals who are intentionally destroying “national projects” and “development”.
· Mongolian herders who resisted the forced displacement of “ecological migration” and illegal expropriation of their grazing lands for mining have been arrested, detained, and tortured.
· Grazing livestock on grassland is considered a crime that is subject to harsh punishment and heavy fine due to its “primitive and backward nature that caused the grassland degradation”.
Despite these egregious policies, Southern Mongolians have tenaciously continued their resistance movements in a very nonviolent way. Through their collective and coordinated efforts, they have been strongly reclaiming their national identity and demanding their national dignity using China’s existing legal framework.
Their resistance includes filing lawsuits, making official complaints and constant scrutiny of laws and practices concerning the right to use their native language on official occasions and in public life, as guaranteed by the Chinese Ethnic Autonomy Law and relevant regulations. Some sued the Chinese Postal authorities in Southern Mongolia for refusing to deliver letters addressed in Mongolian; others refused to pay fines and fees to government agencies for their failure to provide official documents in Mongolian; still others fought to have court proceedings carried out in the Mongolian language. Also, some forced government branches to accept and recognize documents in Mongolian; others succeeded in using Mongolian in official exams and tests for government employment in the Autonomous Region; still others firmly insisted on signing their names in Mongolian on official documents and refused to use the Chinese language; and others rallied and mobilized thousands of students to use their traditional Mongolian last names on academic papers and documents.
Despite the Chinese authorities’ hostile attitude towards the traditional Mongolian nomadic way of life, thousands of ordinary herders have begun to establish voluntary herders’ syndicates to control their natural resource and promote their traditional way of life; Mongolian netizens started calling for a total boycott of some Chinese ceremonies and celebrations including the Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong qiu jie in Chinese) that originated from China’s historical hostile attitude towards the Mongolians; courageous young rock musicians started rallying the Southern Mongolians to “wake up” singing “we want freedom, we want independence, and let us draw our new map with our own hands”.
I am trying not to be too optimistic about the fledgling nonviolent resistance movements by the Southern Mongolians. Yet, I firmly believe that “when people decide they want to be free, there is nothing that can stop them,” as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu once said.
Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center