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  "I am guilty by Chinese laws, but I am not guilty before my people"
July 16, 2017
New York


Upon his release from prison, Southern Mongolian herder Nairalt Borjigin says "I am guilty by Chinese laws, but I am not guilty before my people" (SMHRIC 2017-07-16)


Nairalt Borjigin addressed the local herders who gathered to cheer for his release. In the background is the Chinese Public Security personnel monitoring him and the crowd (SMHRIC 2071-07-16)


A photo of Nairalt Borjigin with captions reading "Our Hero Nairalt Borjigin, Defender of Our Homeland" circulated among Southern Mongolians via social media (SMHRIC 2017-07-16)  

The following is an English translation of a short address made by Mr. Nairalt Borjigin, an ordinary Mongolian herder from Bayan-undur Sum of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Ar-Horchin Banner. He gave the address before a crowd of local Mongolian herders who came to cheer for his release from Chinese prison. Serving 25 months in prison for defending the local Mongolian communities’ grazing land and the right to maintain their pastoralist way of life, Nairalt was released from prison on July 15, 2017:

Today is an ordinary day. Yet it is a day that will go down in history of our struggle. Even though I was charged guilty by Chinese laws, I am not guilty before my people. The struggle that we have taken up for our cause is not an act of guilt before our people. I have received numerous phone calls and welcoming messages from my fellow herders upon my release and found out that many more from our Bayan-undur communities wanted to come here today but were not able to make it due to the severe drought and shrinking pasture that made them unable to leave their livestock unattended; Due to the involuntary migration to distant pastures in other banners [a banner is an administrative unit equivalent to a county] for temporary relief; Due to the policies that outlaw and criminalize the herders of local communities if their livestock trespasses the “protect areas;” And also due to the ever-worsening poverty that made some local herders leave their land for other means of living.

With a heartfelt understanding of the enormous hardships our fellow herders are facing today, I firmly believe that each and every one of you here today represents hundreds more courageous herders in your respective communities. I am truly happy that our fellow herders fully understand the true meaning of my 25-month imprisonment and what cause I represented and fought for. I know that you all are here today not to welcome me as an individual, but you are welcoming and paying respect to our collective idea of defending our legal rights and our determination to the struggle for our future and the well-being of our children and future generations.

It is a strong proof that the conscience of our people never fails to judge what is right and what is wrong. It correctly values and pays a high regard to the struggle for the noble cause of our people and our nation. I have no problem going home alone today after my release from prison. Yet it is particularly meaningful that all of you gathered here to walk the path home with me, giving me not only the warmth and love from my people, but also the sense of solidarity that I am not alone in this struggle.

Therefore, I believe that I did not spend 25 months in prison in vain. Serving in prison for 25 months is nothing fearful to me as long as my people are awakened and stand up for our rights and our future, and as long as the spirit of fighting for justice and the right to a happy and dignified life is instilled in the minds of my people. What is most fearful to me is that my people fail to wake up and languish in despair and spiritual backwardness.

But today I have felt more confident than ever before. Thousands of welcoming calls, text messages, and social media greetings from young Mongolians and tearful well wishes from elders made me feel more confident in our struggle. I am truly happy to be home today and am proud of my beautiful people and beautiful land. We can lose our land and lose our properties. But we must not lose our spirit. We will be the richest and happiest people as long as we do not lose our spirit, hope, and wisdom. This is all I have to say.



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Close to Eden (Urga): France, Soviet Union, directed by Nikita Mikhilkov

Beyond Great WallsBeyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)

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