Today on Twitter I saw several interesting messages from @siweiluozi (a must-follow, by the way, and read his blog too if you don’t already) about an incident in Inner Mongolia that apparently led to rather large scale protests the past few days, with the largest being early this morning Beijing time.
What exactly were they protesting, though? I decided to dig more into it. The following is culled together from a variety of sources, and parts of all of it may not be accurate.
The 5/11 Incident
((One of the mysteries I have yet to unravel is why it’s called this since the incident in question reportedly happened on 5/10))
From this blog post, which is private but available via Google Cache:
On May 10, 2011, a vehicle struck and killed a Mongolian herdsman in Xilinguoleimeng, Inner Mongolia. The vehicle belonged to the Spring City Group [a coal mining company] and it was on Mongolian grasslands in defiance [of policy…] destroying the grasslands and having already killed some herdsmen’s cattle and sheep. Repeated attempts by the town government to dissuade [the coal miners from doing this] were ineffective, so the herdsmen tried to block the cars themselves. But one car directly struck a herdsman named Morigen and then dragged him for around 150 meters. He died right there. Two other cars were even blocking police cars that were trying to intervene! The town government is currently thoroughly investigating this incident!I hope the government can handle this case in accordance with the law.
This blog, in non-native English, has a slightly different account of the incident (unedited):
On may 10th, 2011, a village mongolian herdsmen met some Chinese Coal Company clerks, they drove four trucks, and negotiated with them about the problem of indemnity(pay) of mineral land, which belong to mongolian herdsmen, where product minerals.
At about 12:00pm, the negotiation ended with no result. Suddenly, the Chinese Coal Company clerks drove their trucks and shouted “How much money does a mongolian herdsman’s life worth? At most 400,000RMB, drive trucks to kill them and then throw money. Let’s kill! Go!”. Chinese Coal Company clerks said it and then hit to death Mergen, a mongolian man. The four trucks drove over Mergen’s body one by one. When the murder happened, a group of Chinese policeman were present and they kep silence. After this murder, the Chinese Coal Company trucks drove far away soon and never went back, many minutes later, the policemen started to chase after them and then be threatened to go back. That’s all! What a tragedy!
Apparently, the government wasn’t resolving things fast enough, because people started taking to the streets, protesting not just Morigen’s death but also the general treatment of Mongolian herdsmen over the years. The Boxun article quoted below also features this Youtube video, of some smaller-scale protest activity on 5/23.
The video itself isn’t particularly informative because there’s no (useful) sound, but in the video’s description, it says that news and opinions about this event were being blocked and deleted online, which may have contributed to what appears to be the increasing anger of the local community, and especially the ethnic Mongolians.
From this Boxun article:
Today [5/25] in the morning when people were going to work, a crowd of over 1,000 mostly comprised of ethnic Mongolians and students from the Mongolian language middle school marched publicly to the government offices in Xilinguoleimeng to offer a petition and protest regarding the killing of ethnic Mongolian Morigen by a Han Chinese driving a coal transport vehicle, as well as the more than sixty years of mistreatment of Mongolian herdsmen.
The above information was leaked to a [Boxun] reporter by a person from Xilinguoleimeng who is currently in Japan researching a Ph.D. He said his family had participated in the protest today. […]
[Participators said] that more than a thousand people gathered at the government office, and asked the leaders to come out to speak with them and to accept the petition. A Han Chinese vice-director came out and met with them and spoke to them in Mandarin, which made them very unsatisfied, and they demanded he go back inside. Finally the tribal leader and vice-director Siqinbilige came out personally and accepted the petition. Then the protesters left. According to locals, this is the biggest Mongolian ethnic rights-protecting protest activity in the area since the cultural revolution.
According to Morigen’s family, his remains were suddenly cremated around 3 A.M. this morning, and the ashes were buried on a hillside with no tombstone, just a small mound of earth. All the later developments were over by 6 AM, and by the morning the armed police and PSB officers had left the vicinity of the government building […] and it seems the government office has now returned to business as usual.
The sudden cremation and burial of Morigen was something the government had agreed on with his mother and widow, but his other relatives disagreed. Additionally,the government gave the family a building of 70 square meters, 560,000 RMB, and Morigen’s child and widow 1800 RMB/month for living expenses.
More on the compensation angle from this blog post:
At noon on Sunday May 22nd, the government of Xilinguoleimeng Xiwuqi ((锡林郭勒盟西乌旗 Obviously the name of a place, but I know nothing about Inner Mongolian geography,perhaps someone more knowledgeable can help)) in Inner Mongolia sent two people with a case containing 560,000 RMB in cash to comfort the bereaved family of Morigen ((Again, this is just the pinyin of the Chinese 莫日根, not sure of the proper spelling)). They gave 170,000 to Morigen’s mother, and the other 390,000 was given to his widow. Mr. Morigen’s family and neighbors all told a Boxun reporter: “This is really out of the ordinarity, we’ve never heard of a situation being resolved this quickly.” They all said they had heard that the compensation of victims for traffic accidents was usually not more than 300,000 RMB, and that one generally had to wait until the court had ruled on the case to receive the money, so they never thought it would come this fast.
That appears to be where the case is now. It’s not clear yet whether locals will be satisfied with this resolution, or whether or not any of the men driving the cars have been or will be punished. It’s also not immediately clear what other requests were in the petition presented this morning by protesters, and whether or not they were granted.
Anyway, if nothing else it seems that after a few days of protests, the government was eager to resolve things quickly rather than just arrest everyone, which is good I guess. I still feel like there are large parts of this story missing (perhaps because they’ve been deleted), so I don’t want to comment much more one way or the other.
I did notice, though, that this is not quite as local an issue as one might originally think. A search for Morigen’s name on Sina Weibo returns the old standard: “In accordance with the relevant legal procedures and policies, your search results cannot be shown.”
If anyone does know and wants to help fill in the blanks, or can confirm some of the real spellings and place names, please do in the comments. More likely spellings appear in that English blog post I linked to, but it’s also full of typos and grammatical errors, so I wasn’t sure whether I should fully trust the spelling.
UPDATE: The South China Morning Post now has a story on this event. Like all their stories, it’s behind a paywall, but here’s the article, which is likely as authoritative a version of this story as we’ll ever get:
Protests after herder is run down by coal truck
Hundreds of ethnic Mongolians protested outside a local government headquarters in Inner Mongolia on Monday, with hundreds of middle school pupils taking to the streets the next day, after a herder was allegedly killed by two Han Chinese truck drivers, a rights watchdog and online postings said.
Unrest is rare in Inner Mongolia, a relatively stable minority region.
According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, protesters gathered outside the main administration office of the Right Ujumchin Banner, while hundreds more were blocked on their way. A banner is the Mongolian equivalent of a county.
The rights group said campuses were guarded by police to prevent student protests. But bloggers who posted online accounts with pictures yesterday said the incident had provoked hundreds of middle school pupils to march to the city-level Xilinhot government office on Tuesday.
The demonstrators were protesting against the brutal death of Mergen, an organiser of the banner’s Mongolian herders, who tried to stop coal-hauling trucks from taking a shortcut across fragile grazing land, the centre said.
The centre posted photos of Monday’s demonstration and others said to be of Mergen’s body. It said his head had been crushed under the wheels of a 100-tonne coal hauler driven by two Han Chinese drivers on May 10 and his body dragged by the truck for 150 metres.
Xinhua yesterday confirmed the brutal killing of Mergen, although local officials reached yesterday played down the demonstrations.
Xinhua quoted Shen Wenyin, deputy chief of the Xilingol League government as telling a press conference on Tuesday night that Mergen had been dragged by a coal truck as he attempted to block it. Shen said two Han Chinese drivers, Li Lindong and Lu Xiangdong, had been arrested by police after they fled in a taxi.
Shen confirmed that there had been another fatal coal mine dispute in the league’s Abag Banner – which online postings said had further provoked the protesters in the past two days. Shen said residents in a mining area in Abag had tried to stop operations at a nearby coal mine on May 14 because of noise, dust and water pollution. One of them, Yan Wenlong, 22, was killed when Sun Shuning, a worker, drove a forklift truck into Yan’s car. Sun was arrested for intentional homicide, Xinhua reported.
Wu Zhu , the head of the township government overseeing the village where Mergen lived, confirmed that “some locals” had taken to the streets over Mergen’s death. But he said: “Maybe it is not that appropriate to put it as `a protest’: they simply asked for compensation.”
Wu said police had been sent to restore order and that the area was calm yesterday.
Rising political star Hu Chunhua , widely believed to be a close ally of President Hu Jintao , is party boss of Inner Mongolia.