SOUTH (INNER) MONGOLIA
Inner Mongolian League for the Defense of Human Rights
Unrest in Inner Mongolia
By Irja Halasz
ULAN BATOR, Feb. 28 (1996) (Reuters) - Human rights activists in Mongolia called on Beijing on Wednesday to free ethnic minority dissidents detained in Inner Mongolia and other regions of China for opposing Chinese communist rule.
The Union of Human Rights in Inner Mongolia, the Inner Mongolia Revival Movement and Inner Mongolian Youth Centre said in a published appeal that global pressure was needed. "We call for help and support for the peoples of Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang who are fighting for freedom and independence," said the appeal seen in the Il Tovchuu newspaper. It demanded that China free "thousands of innocent Tibetans, Uighurs, Kazakhs and other non-Chinese" from detention and halt "policies against the people of Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang to eliminate them by Sinicising them by force."
"We call on the international community to put political and economic pressure on China's government to immediately release Ulanshuvu, Hada and hundreds of other Inner Mongolians fighting for human rights who been arrested by the Chinese." Ulanshuvu, a history professor arrested in 1991, and Hada, a bookseller and founder of the Southern Mongolian Democracy Alliance detained in December, are among scores held in the Inner Mongolian capital of Hohhot, the activists said. "China's government and Communist Party started brutal activities against Inner Mongolians in December 1995," Altanbat, an activist based in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, said in an interview. On several dates in December, Chinese security officials "by force dispersed the peaceful gatherings and courageous protests of teachers, students and intellectuals," he said. Some 30 students and teachers of the Inner Mongolian Teachers University and Mongolian Language College, both in Hohhot, were rounded up after they protested the December 10 arrest of Hada and fellow activist Heilong, he said. Some of the students raised pictures of 12th century Mongol ruler Genghis Khan and sang Mongolian nationalist songs during the protests, he told Reuters. Members of Hada's alliance were accused by Chinese police of taking part in a subversive organization that aimed to engage in ethnically divisive activities, the U.S.-based pressure group Human Rights in China said on February 1.
Chinese authorities are extremely nervous of any independent political organizations that could threaten the Communist Party's absolute rule and are particularly suspicious of ethnic groups that could jeopardize national unity. The communist regime, founded in 1949, inherited the borders of the ancient Chinese empire, which contained dozens of non-Chinese ethnic groups. Despite its anti-colonialist rhetoric, Beijing has steadfastly suppressed calls for independence by any ethnic minority regions. Inner Mongolia, Tibet and largely Moslem Xinjiang ostensibly enjoy autonomy but in reality are tightly controlled by ethnic Han Chinese sent from Beijing. Beijing has buttressed its rule in minority areas by resettling millions of Han from crowded parts of China. Mongolia, which has a pact with China in which the neighbours agreed not to interfere in each other's domestic affairs, was unlikely to support the appeal, the activist said.
The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition - July 9, 1996
Ethnic Separatism in China:
Threat or Smoke?
By DRU C. GLADNEY
A recent surge in Chinese media reports of separatist violence raises a question: Who is stirring the pot? The Chinese government certainly seems to be turning these isolated incidents into a national issue. After years of denying the existence of separatists and stressing China's "national unity," official reports have recently detailed terrorist activities in the three border regions of Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
For example, in the northwestern Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, the Xinjiang Daily reported five serious incidents since February, along with a crackdown that rounded up 2,773 terrorist suspects, 6,000 pounds of explosives, and 31,000 rounds of ammunition. In Tibet, the official newspaper admitted that a bomb that exploded on March 22 outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region government compound was the sixth attack on Chinese and regional Tibetan administrative facilities in the last nine months.
Even Inner Mongolia, whose population is only 14% Mongol, has apparently experienced a restive spring that brought separatist threats. Liu Mingzu, Communist Party secretary of Inner Mongolia, in a speech reported in the Inner Mongolia Daily, warned against "ethnic splittists" and urged people to "resolutely attack hostile separatist forces with Western backing that are trying to destroy the unity of the motherland."
The truth is belied by such alarmist talk. China's separatists are small in number, poorly equipped, loosely linked and vastly out-gunned by the People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police. Local support for separatist activities, particularly in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, is ambivalent and ambiguous at best given the economic disparity between these regions and their foreign neighbors, which are generally much poorer, or even, in the case of Tajikistan, driven by a three-way civil war. Memories in the region are strong of mass starvation and widespread destruction during the Sino-Japanese and civil wars in the first half of this century, not to mention the chaotic horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
Many local activists are not calling for real independence. More often they are expressing concerns over environmental degradation, anti-nuclear testing, religious freedom, over-taxation and recently imposed limits on child- bearing. Many ethnic leaders are simply calling for more of the autonomy promised by Chinese law for the five autonomous regions, which are each led by Han Chinese First Party Secretaries controlled by Beijing.
And the external forces that the Chinese authorities often blame for separatist activities are nothing new. The Istanbul-based groups working for an independent Xinjiang have existed since the 1950s, and the Dalai Lama has been active since his exile in 1959. Separatist actions have taken place on a small-scale, but regular basis since the expansion of market and trade policies in China. With the opening of six overland gateways to Xinjiang in addition to the trans-Eurasian railway since 1991, there seems to be no chance of closing up shop. In his 1994 visit to the newly independent nations of Central Asia, Premier Li Peng even called for the opening of a "new Silk Road." Given that separatist activity has persisted at a low level for years, what is the Chinese government's motivation for changing tack and publicizing the "internal affairs" in which foreign governments are so often accused of interfering? The answer can be found in China's domestic politics. In an interview last November, Liu Binyan, the former Xinhua journalist and now dissident Chinese writer living in exile in the U.S., suggested: "Nationalism and Han chauvinism are now the only effective instruments in the ideological arsenal of the CCP. Any disruption in the relationship with foreign countries or among ethnic minorities can be used to stir 'patriotic' sentiments of the people to support the communist authorities."
Beijing's official publicization of the separatist issue thus is a useful tool with which to promote Han unity. Recent moves suggest efforts to promote Chinese nationalism as a "unifying ideology" that will prove more attractive than communism and more manageable than capitalism. By highlighting separatist threats and external intervention, China can divert attention away from Han China's own sources of instability: rising inflation, increased income disparity, displaced "floating populations," Hong Kong's re-unification and the post-Deng succession. Perhaps nationalism will be the only "unifying ideology" left to a Chinese nation that has begun to distance itself from communism, as it has from Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. As Bruce Kapferer has noted, nationalism "makes the political religious."
Any event, domestic or international, can be used as an excuse to stir nationalist sentiments and the building of a new unifying ideology. As the Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang revealed in his statement concerning the most recent Sino-U.S. trade dispute: "If the U.S. goes so far as to implement its trade retaliation, China will, according to its foreign trade law, take counter measures to safeguard its sovereignty and national esteem." Trade and separatism become obstacles not to economic and political development, but to preserving national esteem. This attitude recalls the ominous words contained in the Chinese national anthem: "The Chinese race is at a most crucial moment, and we should stand up and build up a new Great Wall with our blood and flesh."
The most unsettling question is what will happen to those Chinese citizens living in the country's border regions should a nationalist movement rise up that sees them not as part of a China that is multinational and multiethnic, but as a threat. If nationalist sentiments prevail during this time of transition, what will happen to those who live within the Chinese state, but beyond the Great Wall?