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  The Mongols (in China): Bringing the Massacre of Jindandao to Light
March 19, 2015
New York



Vony Rambolamanana, a lawyer at SARA Partners, recently participated in the 26th edition of the International Human Rights Competition organized by the Caen Memorial. The director of the Civic Review, Jean-Philippe Moinet, participated as a member of the jury. Here is the argument that Rambolamanana presented at the contest, which focused on the abuses suffered by the Mongols in China, treated with deafening silence and indifference. In it, she states: "Will we wait a century to unveil what is currently happening to the Mongols in China? No one would then be able to prove their existence, let alone their end. No, once we refuse to talk to them, they will be like a myth!”

The following is an English translation of Vony Rambolamanana's speech at the 26th Edition of the Interntional Human Rights Competition. (English translation by SMHRIC) :

"It is certainly difficult for one who is not accustomed to the idea of displacement to imagine. The scene is beautiful, and yet what it says is not so much so. As the national holiday Naadam approaches, Enkhamgalan gallops on his chestnut horse through the Mongolian steppe towards the next yurt — except this is not the time for a celebration. His concentrated look toward the horizon misrepresents the ideas or anxieties that accelerate the pace of his heart — and also, perhaps, that of his gait. The dust clouds it causes are reminiscent of the anger rising in him before falling, humiliated — an old humiliation representing decades of oppression.”


Moot at the Caen Memorial

He does not cross a soul along the way. On this side of the Mongolian territory, Ujumchin Right Banner, modernity has not quite planted its flag. Here reign the last vestiges of this ethnic group, the only space where the Mongols are still numerous. When he sees a flock of sheep, he knows he has arrived. He comes to friends, full of heaviness. "They killed one of ours. Mergen died last night. Their trucks dragged on for more than a hundred yards when he resisted.”

Instead of spontaneous revolts, they opt now for peaceful organization [and protest]. The painful emotions are contained in the midst of their activism. There is one individual who makes signs, and one who goes into the surrounding gachas ( a gacha consists of several villages) to announce the next event. They reassembled, motivated, and even optimistic, because unity is strength — only nobody dares say out loud what they think within: that this fight will end in the annihilation of their identity, their land, or their people.


"For these players, hope is not permitted"

Fatigue has already set in. Today, the battle continues, and for these players, hope is no longer permitted. Some have disappeared, others are in prison, and the lucky ones have managed to escape. Among these, there is Munkhazaya, Enkhamgalan‘s wife, who was forced to abandon the steppe and find refuge in the crowded and asphyxiating megacities.

A few days after the death of Mergen, in May 2011, thousands of people had pushed back. They resisted forced relocation; many of those who returned to their ancestral lands did not survive. Having been an 80% majority in 1949, they now represent little more than 17% of the population of Inner Mongolia, carrying the stigma of "ethnic minority.”

The autonomous province of Inner Mongolia is a region of which there is nothing autonomous. A victim of its natural resources [and consequential wealth], it is the energy base of China. Under the false pretext of protecting the environment and pastureland, Chinese authorities have organized the forced migration of over 160,000 Mongolian nomads. The green meadows are now paved roads.

The consequences are alarming: underground reserves have dried up, desertification of this area is well underway, and the air is unclean. Far from peaceful, pastures are now colonized by mining company trucks, favored by the government, in search of coal and rare earth minerals. These are the same trucks that killed Mergen.


"China betrays its commitments"

The pastures are the identity of the Mongols . Depriving them of their land is a violation of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples adopted by Beijing. Tang Jiuaxan, the Counselor of State, has said to the Commissioner of Human Rights that "improving the economic, social and cultural conditions [is] our most important task." Signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights it ratified in 2001, China has nevertheless betrayed its commitments:

Article 1: The realization of the right of peoples to self-determination of their wealth and natural resources. What about the looting that I     have to report?

In Article 11: The right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including food, clothing, and housing. What about the frequent evictions without compensation or adequate consultation, which deprive the Mongols of the farming and agriculture that are essential to their survival?

In Article 13: The right of everyone to education. The policy of closing Mongolian-language schools has specifically intended to restrict access. Mongolians are both excluded and discriminated against in the cities where they relocate, far from their language and their culture, and are no longer at home.


"The riot police in Hohhot is not in the details"

Beyond words and texts, there is the reality. It is no coincidence that two weeks after the first event, a new call to action began. This time, students joined Enkhamgalan and his companions in their misfortune. Riot police appeared in Hohhot, the capital of the region, but [the official report] does not go into detail. Forty people were arrested.


Lawyers participating in Moot

A second shepherd was killed in October [2011], sparking new demonstrations. Security forces engaged in covert repression. Annihilating the possibility of terrorist activities, they stopped 82 groups and 3,644 suspected criminals, according to the Bureau of Public Security. Telecommunication networks were interrupted in a large part of the region.

When Mongol shepherds went to Beijing in 2013 to protest against the occupation of their pastures, they were expelled in violation of the right to petition that is ironically recognized by Chinese law. More than fifty people who spoke about their experiences on the Internet and denounced the migration of Han Chinese in their territories have been held without trial for allegedly, according to state media, the "creation and spreading of rumors."

The Han Chinese are indeed encouraged to migrate to Inner Mongolia and benefit from the leniency of the Chinese authorities. In April 2013, in the banner of Ongniud, a hundred Han farmers attacked Mongolian herders, seriously wounding seven, with impunity.

During the same year, Bayanbaatar, another shepherd, was severely beaten by Han railroad employees during a protest. By preventing his friends from carrying him to the hospital, these employees indirectly caused his death. As if the loss of the shepherd was not enough, his family and eighty other protesters were put under house arrest, while his attackers were never prosecuted. The proposed financial compensation sounds like an insult. Death is not a market.

Six shepherds were then sentenced to prison for the sabotage and destruction of property. Their crime? Defense against their expropriation by a logging company. What should have been a civil case has been turned into a criminal trial.


 "The mouthpieces of the Mongolian people are gagged"

In order to stifle any hint of mobilization, the mouthpieces of the Mongolian people are gagged. So it is for  Hada, a visionary writer who predicted in 1995 what would happen to his people. For speaking about his views, he spent fifteen years in prison before being placed under house arrest (rather than being released). It is the same for Huuchinuu, a cyber-dissident who was regularly beaten before completely disappearing. Their situations are reported by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders. Reports Without Borders have rightly pointed at China "because of the enforced disappearance, a privileged instrument of censorship of free speech."

And Enkhamgayam, whose only “crime” was organizing demonstrations, was executed in June 2013, after a closed trial. Before his death, he experienced two years of forced labor and abuse, as in China, said, torture is a chronic disease. Such is life in Inner Mongolia. A succession of lying exactions are listed on the virtual pages of a handful of NGO websites or online newspapers.

China's Constitution has incorporated the protection and respect of human rights in March 2004, but it is ultimately empty rhetoric. Moreover, China seems unbothered, and has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Farmers and shepherds, students and intellectuals, men and women, all live without knowing what will become of their tomorrow. Will their stories fade away? Some will survive these steppes, where only the wind echoes—and even this echo will eventually die in the noise of excavators, suffocated by the smoke of factories.

A secret Chinese company called Jindandao massacred tens of thousands of Mongols in 1891, citing the fight against imperialism to hide an ethnic cleansing attempt. The survivors fled to the mountains to build this pastoral society, which is now also threatened.


"For a century, the Chinese version was imposed on truth"

For a century, the Chinese version of the massacre was imposed on the truth: that the Mongols and their history were being silenced. It is only now that we begin to understand what really happened. Will we wait a century to unveil what is currently happening to the Mongols in China? No one would then be able to prove their existence, let alone their end. No, once we refuse to talk to them, they will be like a myth!

It does not take a great deal of courage for me to take the train, come to Caen, and tell you all this—any more than those hours spent with Munkhazaya sitting in my office listening to the account of the execution of her husband. I have in mind the 8,000 km she has crossed that separate her from the land she loves—her only link to Enkhamgalan.

In coming to deliver his version of the story, we will, perhaps, rehabilitate the memory of those who have disappeared, those who have fled, those who have paid the full price for the choice of free speech. I just came to tell you about Mergen, about Enkhamgalan, about Munkhazaya, about Hada. This is the story of the brave.



From Yeke-juu League to Ordos Municipality: settler colonialism and alter/native urbanization in Inner Mongolia

Close to Eden (Urga): France, Soviet Union, directed by Nikita Mikhilkov

Beyond Great WallsBeyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)

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