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Protesters defy crackdown in China

Martial law declared in cities across autonomous region after ethnic protests

Protesters defy crackdown in China
Paramilitaries and police block the street during a protest in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on May 23, 2011 (photo: SMHRIC) staff reporter, Bangkok

June 1, 2011

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital of Inner Mongolia despite a government clampdown, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said yesterday.

SMHRIC said martial law was declared in major cities across the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at the weekend, riot police and paramilitary forces were deployed to contain civil demonstrations and access to social media sites has been blocked.

However, on Monday morning several hundred people gathered in the streets of Hohhot to demand the rights of Mongolians and the release of detainees arrested in earlier protests.

As protesters marched towards government offices, riot police on high alert moved in to disperse demonstrators an hour after the protest began.

SMHRIC relayed reports that up to 10 protesters have been killed in a crackdown following protests that began on 23 May after a Mongolian herder was killed by a truck driver on May 10.

Monday's protest coincided with an announcement from Chinese officials that they would file murder charges against a forklift truck driver accused of striking and killing another activist, who was among 20 people protesting at a coal mine near Xilinhot on May 15.

After days of protests, many public areas were cordoned off and students, who had spearheaded the uprising days before, were confined to campuses.

A Mongolian professor from the Inner Mongolia University who was ordered to carry out guard duty over students told SMHRIC: “We are ordered to have our lunch inside the campus, and not allowed to leave the office until further notice.”

Yet, according to the SMHRIC statement, students have been staging on-campus protests in which Chinese-language text books have been thrown out of windows as an act of defiance.

Across the region, authorities have issued warnings against demonstrations to schools and businesses, while distributing text messages telling people to stay indoors “due to possible violence on the streets.”

In Tongliao, eastern Inner Mongolia, a propaganda exercise was launched in which government representatives visited Mongol communities to promote the benefits of the Communist Party’s ethnic policies.

Speaking to SMHRIC, one dissident said: “On the one hand they are trying to fool the Mongolians with their ethnic policy, on the other hand they threaten to crack down on any sort of protests of the Mongolians if we do not listen to them.” Ethnic Mongolians make up less than 20 percent of the region's 25 million population; around 80 percent are Han Chinese.
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