Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information CenterSouthern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center
HomeAbout UsCampaignsSouthern Mongolian WatchChineseJapaneseNewsLInksContact Us




Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China -- A Mongol's View



Southern Mongolian Human Rihgts

Information Center ( SMHRIC)

New York City

March 4, 2005



            On February 28, 2005, the government of China issued its first white paper on ethnic minorities, entitled Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China. Regrettably, the authors of the document missed an important opportunity to reexamine official Chinese government policies toward the ethnic minorities. Instead of confronting minority issues, the white paper is a self-serving justification for the continuing political and economic exploitation of minority regions and glosses over its increasing record of human rights violations.

            Since the establishment of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR) in 1947, indigenous rights and right of self-determination of ethnic Mongols living in IMAR has steadily diminished. Mongols from all social classes and walks of life from intellectuals and scholars to herders have been affected during a series of political persecutions under the system of “regional autonomy”. The horrific tragedy of the 1960s was more than a product of the Cultural Revolution or the so-called “ten years of turmoil”, it was also a planned campaign to eliminate any thoughts of Inner Mongolian self-determination. Using the fabricated “Inner Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party” as a pretext, hundreds of thousands of totally innocent Mongols both in the IMAR as well as in other regions were tortured, maimed or killed. The Mongols are still waiting for an official inquiry into the crimes that were committed against an entire nation of people. 

            In addition to the genocide carried out against the Mongol population during the Cultural Revolution, sinicization of the IMAR has been carried out through a population transfer of millions of Han Chinese into Inner Mongolia. Over the past 5+ decades, the ratio of Mongol to Han Chinese has shifted from 5:1 in 1949 to 1:6 today. As a result of this massive population transfer and the consequent excessive and non-sustainable farming of the grasslands, the ecology of Inner Mongolia has been seriously damaged, resulting in frequent sandstorms and droughts. Ironically, the ecological devastation caused by the millions of farmers has been blamed on the livestock practices of the nomadic Mongols. Under a policy of “ecological migration”, the government is forcing Mongol herders to give up their traditional way of nomadic life even as Chinese farmers are abandoning their now barren fields in favor of dairy cows. There have been numerous human rights violations in carrying out this policy due to its forcible manner, and the lack of food, water, housing, shelter, and social/medical services to those who are affected.

            Regional autonomy has not guaranteed the rights of Mongols to freely use their own language and writing. At least half the Mongols of the IMAR have lost command of their native language because of the government’s discriminatory and assimilation policies. Mongolian language education has steadily declined and in recent years, an increasing number of Mongol language schools have been forced to either close or have been absorbed into the Chinese language school system, not only in the IMAR but also in Xinjiang province. Mongol language education is being replaced by Chinese language instruction under the banner of ‘bilingual education’.

            Regional autonomy has not guaranteed the rights of the Mongols to preserve or promote their traditional culture. A particularly egregious recent example was the announcement by the local government in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, to sell the mausoleum of Chinggis Khan to a private company. The holy shrine of Chinggis Khan which is revered by Mongols everywhere was to be turned into a theme park and used for commercial purposes by a private company. Only an enormous outcry from Mongols throughout the region succeeded in a stay, perhaps temporary, of this unbelievably insensitive plan.

            Those Mongols who seek to find ways to preserve their Mongol culture are persecuted. Hada, a well-known intellectual, was arrested because he established the “Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance”, proposing peaceful solutions to issues of minority rights and promoting Mongol culture. Two highly respected human rights organizations, Human Rights in China and Amnesty International have both recently reported that Hada has been routinely tortured in prison where he has now served ten years of an unusually harsh 15-year sentence. His example shows how Mongols have been deprived of their rights of free speech and assembly.

            Recent years have also seen a conversion of traditional administrative units in Inner Mongolia such as “League, Banner”, and “Gachaa” to Chinese administrative units of “city”, “municipality” and “county”. So where Han Chinese population transfer represents the first prong of a two pronged approach to the Mongol question, the geographical conversion of Mongol lands to Chinese through administrative means represents the second prong.    

            We urge the government of China to seriously reexamine its ethnic minority policies and address the real issues of economic and political exploitation and denial of human rights. The record of “regional autonomy” as carried out in the “Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region” over the past nearly 6 decades has been a sad history of exploitation  of natural resources, sinicization of the region through administrative means and population transfer, denial of basic human rights and elimination of economic, cultural and ethnic identity. The government of China must begin with a commitment to take sincere action on all these fronts and redress the grievances of the Mongols. A good start would be the complete and unconditional release of Hada.  



Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China (in English):

中国的民族区域自治 (in Chinese)




From Yeke-juu League to Ordos Municipality: settler colonialism and alter/native urbanization in Inner Mongolia

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)
 ©2002 SMHRIC. All rights reserved. Home | About Us | Campaigns | Southern Mongolian Watch | News | Links | Contact Us