|September 16, 2013|
|Signatures of 300 Mongolian herders from Bayannur Gachaa , Shinsume Sum of Ongiud Banner on an appeal letter demanding the return of their grazing land and the release of detained herders (SMHRIC photo). See below for the original appeal letter in Chinese.|
In a phone interview, Ms.Sarangowaa, wife of the arrested herder Mr. Tulguur, told the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) that on June 25, 2013 family members of the detainees were given an arrest warrant which states that the six herders were formally arrested for the crime of “sabotaging production and management”.
According to the case materials and written appeals the SMHRIC received from the family members of the detainees, a state-run Chinese forestry company named “Shuang He Forestry” has occupied a large piece of Bayannuur Gachaa’s grazing land for decades without the local Mongolian herders’ consent.
In April 2013, a clash erupted between the herders and the Shuang He Forestry. Angry herders dismantled a makeshift tent set up by the forestry company and demanded the immediate return of their grazing land. A melee ensued, with 12 herders beaten and hospitalized. The herders appealed to the Banner Government to resolve the case in a just manner. In the absence of any response from the Banner Government for more than a month, about 300 herders set off for the Chifeng Municipality Government to stage a protest. The Ongniud Banner Public Security Bureau acted quickly and attempted to stop the herders from staging a protest in front of the Municipal Government. Five of the six previously named herders were arrested on May 25, 2013 on a charge of “sabotaging public and private properties” which later was revised to “crime of sabotaging production and management” by the authorities.
To protect the herders’ legal rights, Mr.Tulguur, the elected Head of Bayannuur Gachaa, hired a well-known Mongolian lawyer named Mr. Huhbulag in preparation to file a lawsuit against the forestry company and the Banner Public Security Bureau for illegally arresting and detaining the five herders.
On May 31, Mr. Tulguur and his lawyer Mr. Huhbulag were invited by Mr. Han Hao, the Head of Shinsume Sum, to a dinner at a hotel in the Banner capital. At the dinner table Han Hao not only brutally beat up Tulguur and Huhbulag but also instructed the Public Security and State Security personnel to carry out the arrest of the two. Huhbulag was immediately taken away and brought back to his hometown of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Tongliao Municipality by a group of State Security personnel. Shortly later Huhbulag was released, but ordered not to represent any of these herders. Tulguur has since then remained under detention at the Ongniud Banner Public Security Bureau Detention Center for alleged involvement in “sabotaging production and management”.
“Huhbulag later told us that the official from the Sum Government punched my husband’s face twice at the dinner table for organizing the herders’ protest,” Ms. Sarangowaa told SHMRIC about her husband’s arrest. “As a representative to the Ongniud Banner People’s Congress for two successive years, my husband indeed supported the herders to protest and file lawsuits to defend their legal rights,” she added.
On June 2, 2013, more than 100 herders from the Gachaa again set off for the Banner Government to protest the arrest of Tulguur and the other five herders. En route, they were stopped and beaten by Public Security personnel. Their cars, motorcycles and cell phones were confiscated. Yet, the herders managed to escape the police harassment and continued to travel on foot for another 15 miles to reach the Banner Government where they were rounded up and taken back to their homes.
To prevent possible large-scale demonstrations from taking place, from June 2 to June 8, 2013, the Ongniud Banner Public Security Bureau sent hundreds of police with dozens of police vehicles and sealed up the entire Gachaa. Every family of the protestors has been under guard by three policemen around the clock for seven days; cell phones were confiscated and every single movement of the herders was closely monitored; check points were set up at the main entrances to the Gachaa to monitor those coming and going into the Gachaa.
When asked what the police surveillance looks like in the Gachaa now, Sarangowaa told SMHRIC that the security is still tight there and the herders are effectively barred from organizing any kind of protest at this moment.
“The herders are not afraid of the police, and ready to continue the protest anytime,” Sarangowaa told SMHRIC, “in fact they even stated that they would see if the Ongniud Banner Public Security Detention Center is large enough to detain all of the hundreds of herders.”
“I am very concerned about my husband’s health. He has a liver problem and was on medication before he was arrested,” Sarangowaa expressed her concern to SMHRIC, “I am sure he is not being given any treatment at the Detention Center”. “The six have been detained for more than 100 days already. No family member has ever been allowed to visit them, and no word has been heard from the Banner Government,” Sarangowaa added.
Although declining to give out the details of the case, the Ongniud Banner Public Security Bureau stated on its Tengxun Weibo official micro blog that “the case is under review in accordance with the law.” “The facts are clear and the evidence is ample. Whoever has a disagreement can express his or her opinion through acceptable means. Whoever spread information inconsistent with the facts must be held accountable for the consequences,” the micro blog stated.
For more information on the case, Ms.Sarangowaa can be reached at: 0086-139-4896-9360
Appeal letter from 300 Mongolian herders of Bayannuur Gachaa, Shinsume Sum of Ongniud Banner