China vows to improve ecology in restive Mongolian areas
Jun 15, 2011, 11:03 GMT
Beijing - Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders on Wednesday promised to improve the economy and environment of the country's vast Inner Mongolia region, where ethnic Mongolians have staged recent anti-government protests.
Wen led a meeting of the State Council, or cabinet, to discuss ways to 'accelerate the development of Inner Mongolia,' promising that the government would 'strive to curb the deteriorating trend of the region's ecological environment by 2015.'
The council said priorities included 'improving the standard of living, conserving resources, protecting the environment, and promoting national unity and social stability,' according to a statement issued via state media.
'National unity' refers to harmony between ethnic groups in Inner Mongolia, where Mongolians are a minority.
The government aims to bring the region's ecological system 'within balance' by 2020, with a 'marked improvement' in the living conditions of farmers and herders, the State Council said.
Protests by indigenous people in several rural areas of Inner Mongolia followed the death of two Mongolians in clashes with coal miners last month, state media and rights groups reported.
The protesters demanded greater respect for their traditional culture and animal husbandry on Inner Mongolia's grasslands.
Some carried banners bearing Mongolian slogans, including, 'Defend the rights of Mongols' and 'Defend the homeland.'
Paramilitary police quashed the growing protests in late May but several areas of Inner Mongolia remain tense, according to reports by the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre.
The government launched a review of coal mining on June 1 to 'ensure safe production practices, protection of the environment and attention to the welfare of local residents.'
The ruling Communist Party also sacked Hai Ming, the party secretary of Xi Wu Qi, an area called Left Ujumchin Banner in Mongolian where protests first erupted after the May 10 death of Mergen, a leader of herders trying to block a convoy of coal trucks.
The government said local courts would try four people on charges of murder linked to the deaths of Mergen and a second Mongolian in clashes on May 15.
Two of the defendants were tried last week for Mergen's death.
About 4 million ethnic Mongolians live in China, most of them in Inner Mongolia, where they now make up less than 20 per cent of the region's population of more than 20 million.
Many Mongolians resent what they perceive as encroachment by the majority Han Chinese population upon the region's grazing lands.
State media in late May quoted officials as saying Inner Mongolia would remain at the forefront of a national plan to expand coal production by developing large open-cast mines.
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