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Relocation of Mongolian herdsmen 'massive abuse'



South China Morning Post

April 7, 2005

Ray Cheung in Beijing


The relocation of herdsmen in Inner Mongolia for the sake of environmental protection is causing massive human rights violations to the indigenous people, a US-based advocacy group has claimed.

The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre in New York brands the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's so-called "ecological immigration" policy a forced migration of hundreds of thousands of herder families from their nomadic pastures.

"The policy has brought to the Mongols gross violations of their human rights and created a crisis in social, economic, cultural, physical and psychological conditions endangering the existence of the Mongols as a people in the region," the centre says in a report.

"Ecological immigration is a painful, disruptive and involuntary process that is not only against the will of the local Mongols but also against nature."

Since 2001, Inner Mongolia's local authorities implemented a five-year plan to relocate about 640,000 herders to small towns and urban centres to stop overgrazing and prevent sandstorms and desertification of the region's fragile grasslands.

But the report alleges the policy has devastated local communities because the herders, who are mostly ethnic Mongolians, can no longer practise their traditional way of life and must conform to the Han Chinese society, centred on agriculture and animal husbandry.

Combined with simultaneous polices encouraging Han Chinese from across the mainland to settle in Inner Mongolia, the report says the environmental migration is leading to the assimilation of Mongols.

According to the report, the Han Chinese population has increased from 200,000 in 1947 to 12 million, raising the ratio of Han Chinese to Mongols from 1:5 to 6:1.

On the environmental damaged caused by herding, the report says the impact of the herdsmen's farming was minimal compared with the cultivation practices of Han Chinese farmers.

It also disputes the government's pledges that the herdsman will be allowed onto the grasslands if the area is deemed to be managed "scientifically and rationally" and that it can be used.

"These are conditions which can never be met by the Mongols," says the report, noting that the authorities have not classified nomadic herding as "scientific and rational" and that reusability standards have yet to be defined.

In addition, the report claims Inner Mongolian authorities have adopted strong -arm tactics to implement so-called "ecological immigration", citing numerous cases where herders refusing to be relocated have been arrested, detained and beaten up.

Their private property has also been destroyed or confiscated.

Inner Mongolian officials were unable to be reached for comment yesterday.





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)
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