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  Southern Mongolian historian on hunger strike in Mongolian jail
June 12, 2013
New York
Pre-trial Detention Center No.461 where Tsenel is held for alleged "attempt to overthrow the government of Mongolia and conspiracy of a coup".


Press Conference on Tsengel's case in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. From left Munkhzargal (human rights activist), Nyam-Ochir (friend of Tsengel), Bom-Yalagch (President of Mongolian Green Party), and Munkhbayar Chuluundorj (journalist, human rights activist).  
Mr. Rolmaajidiin Tsengel, a Southern (Inner) Mongolian historian residing in the independent country of Mongolia, is on his 15th day of a hunger strike at the Pre-trial Detention Center No.461 in the capital city Ulaanbaatar in protest of the Mongolian authorities’ accusation of “attempt to overthrow the government of Mongolia and conspiracy of a coup”.

On May 6, 2012, Rolmaajidiin Tsengel was arrested by the Mongolian police and sent to the Central Province Prison, a notorious facility where prisoners are often subjected to cruel torture and inhumane treatment.

“Tsengel was held at the Central Province Prison, known as the Headquarters of Mongolian Gestapo, for about 10 months before he was transferred to the Pre-trial Detention Center No.461 in Ulaanbaatar,” Mr.Munkhbayar Chuluundorj, a Mongolian citizen, human rights activist and prominent journalist, told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) over the phone while he was on his way to hold a press conference to call for Tsengel’s immediate release.

One of the major reasons for Tsengel’s recent hunger strike seems to be that he is still being held while the main suspect of the “conspiracy” case, Mr. H. Badamragchaa, a citizen of Mongolia and a well-known filmmaker, was released recently along with two other Mongolian citizens after a court hearing that failed to find any evidence to support the authorities’ claim.

A native of Southern Mongolia’s Shiliin-gol League, Mr. Tsengel came to Mongolia in 1993 and later obtained his Ph.D. in Mongolian history from the National University of Mongolia.

The Mongolia News (, a U.S.-based Chinese language blog on Southern Mongolian issues, revealed that after renouncing his Chinese citizenship Tsengel became a stateless person. Currently he is seeking citizenship status in Mongolia. 

As a historian and objective scholar, Tsengel is not a popular figure of activism in Mongolia. Competent in Chinese, he occasionally had done some odd jobs of translation and interpretation between Chinese and Mongolian. Having no affiliation with any political organizations, Tsengel by no means is a political or human rights activist. In fact, his friends come from the arts and literary circles in Mongolia.

“What he did was merely to help Badamragchaa by translating some historical documents from Chinese to Mongolian for his documentary film  ‘Galdan Boshogt’,” Munkhbayar Chuluundorj said in a phone interview with the SMHRIC when asked whether Tsengel had ever engaged in any political activities. “He is an ordinary scholar who has no interest in politics,” Munkhbayar added.

The film “Galdan Boshogt” that seems to be considered key evidence in the “conspiracy for coup” charge is nothing more than a historical documentary on Galdan Boshogt, a Mongolian national hero who fought fiercely against  Manchu expansion in the 17th century and strived to unify all parts of Mongolia.

According to 24 Tsag, a Mongolian online news source, Tsengel also worked as an advisor to another documentary film entitled “Horjiiloo” (meaning “Triumph of Mongolia”). Based on many historical accounts, this film presented how the Bogdo Khan Government sent armies through five different routes to liberate Southern Mongolia from Chinese aggression in 1913.

The source also revealed that during the past 13-month detention, Tsengel was subjected to gruesome tortures by both police and inmates. Once he was taken to an undisclosed remote place by the Mongolian police who threatened to kill him with a mock execution for his refusal to admit to the trumped-up criminal charges against him.

“His life is in a real and serious danger. No family members, relatives or friends are allowed to visit him. His own lawyer has been replaced by a government appointed lawyer who declined to be interviewed on the pretext of ‘avoiding any negative impact on the case’,” said Munkhbayar Chuluundorj.

When SMHRIC asked whether there is any involvement by the Chinese authorities in this persecution case, Munkhbayar said, “yes, no doubt, the entire process has been heavily influenced by Chinese intervention.”

Shortly after, in a press conference, Munkhbayar characterized the independent country of Mongolia as a state power that seriously violates the human rights of the Southern Mongolians.

“This type of groundless, nonsense accusations and political witch-hunts remind us of the ‘Great Purge’ during the communist era,” Badamragchaa’s brother was quoted by Munkhbayar as saying.

“Tsengel is a completely innocent man whose only crime is being a Southern Mongolian,” Munkhbayar rallied the citizens of Mongolia to urge the Mongolian authorities to release Tsengel immediately.

Mr.Nyam-ochir, a citizen of Mongolia and a close friend of Tsengel, also spoke at the press conference and questioned directly the sincerity of the Mongolian President Mr.Tsahiyagiin Elbegdorj who in a widely reported speech expressed the willingness of the Government of Mongolia to accept Mongolians from all over the world for the development of Mongolia.

As Southern Mongolian communities abroad are particularly concerned about this case, Mr.Temtsilt Shovtsuud, a Germany-based human rights activist and the President of the Inner Mongolian People Party, said in a phone interview with the SMHRIC that the case is “unbelievable nonsense and full of illogical accusations. It is a laughing stock in the free and democratic world”.

“Tsengel neither is a military general nor a high-ranking government official. How can a poor intellectual overthrow a government? It is complete nonsense!” Mr.Shovtsuud said before expressing serious doubt of the Mongolian Government’s recent call inviting Mongolians from across the world to come home.

“Millions of Mongolians outside Mongolia especially the Southern Mongolians were particularly excited by President Elbegdorj’s speech two years ago. However, the reality is far from optimistic,” Mr. Shovtsuud told SMHRIC.

This is the second high-profile case of persecution of Southern Mongolian exiles in Mongolia. Two years ago, another Southern Mongolian exile Mr. Batzangaa was arrested and deported to China in a joint operation by the Mongolian Police and Chinese Public Security personnel while he was seeking asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the capital city Ulaanbaatar.



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