Mongolians protest after two deaths in Chinese region
May 25, 2011, 10:19 GMT
Beijing - Mongolian students marched through a town in China's Inner Mongolia to urge the government to protect the rights of traditional herding families on the region's vast grasslands, a US-based rights group reported on Wednesday.
Nearly 2,000 students from three schools designated for Mongolians marched to the local government headquarters in Xilinhot, where they dispersed after officials promised to address their grievances on Tuesday, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre said.
Photographs of hundreds of marching students, many wearing blue or yellow sports tops, were posted on the centre's website.
The protest followed the death of at least two Mongolians this month during clashes between herders and workers from local coal mines, according to the centre's reports and Chinese state media.
Scores of Mongolian protesters were confronted by People's Armed Police wearing riot gear in Xilinhot's Right Ujumchin Banner (county) on Monday following the deadly clashes between herders and miners, according to a video and photographs posted by the Information Centre.
Photos showed riot police and plainclothes officers arresting several people, including at least one man wearing a traditional Mongolian robe.
The state-run Inner Mongolia Daily on Tuesday said police had arrested two people suspected of involvement in the death of the two Mongolians.
The Information Centre and US-based Radio Free Asia said Mongolians had staged several other protests in Right Ujumchin Banner since the death of Mergen, a leader of Mongolian herders, on May 10.
Some Mongolians called online for larger protests in the regional capital, Hohhot, on May 30, the reports said.
Mergen, who like like many Mongolians uses a single name, was hit by a coal truck and dragged 150 metres after he led protesters trying to block a convoy.
The Information Centre said the protesters were further angered when the driver of the truck that killed Mergen appeared unconcerned, telling them: 'My truck is fully insured, and the life of a smelly Mongolian herder costs me no more than 40,000 yuan (6,000 dollars)'.
Another Mongolian man died in nearby Abag Banner on May 15 following a clash between herders and coal miners.
Officials promised Wednesday's protesters that they would handle the two deaths in a 'just manner' and allow local media to report any similar clashes, the Information Centre said.
The Inner Mongolia Daily quoted a local government spokesman as saying the trial of the two the suspects would be 'as severe as possible and (held) as soon as possible'.
The government had formed an investigation team to hear the herders' grievances and resolve their problems, the spokesman said.
It would also consolidate mining operations, enforce standards, close enterprises that cause serious environmental damage, and 'strengthen the security of delivery from mines', he was quoted as saying.
Inner Mongolia is one of China's biggest coal producing regions and has long-term plans to develop scores of new mines.
Those plans have raised fears among Mongolians of a new influx of members of China's Han majority, who account for more than 90 per cent of the nation's 1.3 billion people.
About 4 million Mongolians live in China, most of them in Inner Mongolia, where they now make up less than 20 per cent of the population of more than 20 million.
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