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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China targets Mongolians in quiet pre-Games crackdown

July 9, 2008

By Ben Blanchard
July 8, 2008

HOHHOT, China, July 8 (Reuters) - In China's pre-Olympics crackdown
on dissent two communities have received considerable global
attention -- the Tibetans and the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang.

But dissidents and rights groups say the government is targetting
another ethnic group as well, Mongolians, largely out of the eye of
media and without attracting as much international publicity.

Though China's northern region of Inner Mongolia has not experienced
the scale of protests and unrest that have hit Xinjiang, and
especially Tibet, the government has been quietly detaining people
accused of separatism and harassing activists.

"Recently the authorities have been getting increasingly paranoid,"
Enhebatu Togochog of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human
Rights Information Centre told Reuters.

"They are confiscating whatever they think are weapons including
Mongolian knives which are sold in Mongolian stores solely as
artwork," he added.

"Many Mongols travelling to Beijing have been treated as criminal
suspects and are not allowed to stay in hotels in Beijing."

In March, police arrested Naranbilig, who had campaigned against Han
Chinese migration to Inner Mongolia, and placed him under house
arrest, Togochog said. Two weeks prior to that another dissident,
Tsebegjab, was also put under house arrest.


Xinna, the wife of Inner Mongolia's best-known jailed dissident,
Hada, told Reuters police had intensified surveillance on her and
other activists in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, which open on Aug. 8.

"It's white terror," she said, sitting in a Mongolian tea house in
regional capital Hohhot. "There's a lot of fear.

Hada was tried behind closed doors in 1996 and jailed for 15 years
for separatism, spying and supporting the Southern Mongolian
Democratic Alliance, which sought greater rights for ethnic
Mongolians. He says the charges were trumped up.

Amnesty International considers Hada a prisoner of conscience and has
expressed fears about his well-being.

Unlike the Tibetans, whose spiritual leader the Dalai Lama won a
Nobel Peace prize for his work to promote his people's cause, and
Rebiya Kadeer, the so-called "mother of the Uighur people", China's
Mongolians have no such champion.

"People know of the Dalai Lama, but who do we have? Nobody knows
about our problems," said Urasgaal, manager of a Mongolian craft shop
in Hohhot which he says has been targetted by police raids looking
for supposedly subversive materials.

Inner Mongolia is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy, but
like Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west, Beijing keeps a tight rein
on the region, fearing ethnic unrest in the country's strategic border areas.

Decades of migration by the dominant Han have made Chinese Mongolians
a minority in their own land, officially comprising less than 20
percent of the almost 24 million population of Inner Mongolia.

China's treatment of its ethnic minorities has leapt into the
limelight following anti-Chinese violence in Tibet in March and the
pro-Tibet protests that have dogged the international leg of the
Beijing Olympic torch relay.

Yet some Mongolians lament the lack of attention paid to them. "It's
as though we have been forgotten by the world," said one soft-spoken
Hohhot academic who asked not to be identified. (Editing by Bill
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