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One dead and 50 arrested after pollution protest in China’s Inner Mongolia



One dead and 50 arrested after pollution protest in China’s Inner Mongolia

Disturbance one of many in recent years by ethnic Mongols over pollution and land grabs in vast autonomous region

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2015, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2015, 2:13am

Reuters in Beijing


Ethnic Mongolian protesters confront police in Naiman county in Inner Mongolia on Monday. Photo: SMHRIC


Ethnic Mongol protest in Naiman county, Inner Mongolia on Monday. Photo: SMHRIC

One person died and 50 were arrested after some 2,000 police, using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, put down a protest by villagers against pollution from a chemical plant in China’s Inner Mongolia, an overseas human rights group said.

Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region almost the size of Tibet that stretches from Heilongiang province almost to Xinjiang, has seen sporadic unrest since 2011 when the region was rocked by protests after an ethnic Mongol herder was killed by a truck after taking part in demonstrations against pollution caused by a coal mine.

Ethnic Mongols, who make up less than 20 per cent of Inner Mongolia’s 24 million population, say their grazing lands have been ruined by mining and desertification and that the government has tried to resettle them in permanent houses.


Ethnic Mongols in Naiman county, Inner Mongolia, protested against pollution and land grabs by mining and chemical companies on Monday. Photo: SMHRIC

Coal-rich Inner Mongolia is supposed to enjoy a high degree of self-rule, but many Mongols say the Han Chinese majority has benefited most by economic development.

In the latest incident, villagers in Naiman county, next to the northeast provinces of Liaoning and Jilin, took to the streets to protest against a chemical processing zone they said was polluting farmland and grazing land, the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre said on Monday.

The group quoted a witness as saying police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, leading to one death.


Ethnic Mongols protest in Naiman county, Inner Mongolia on Monday. Photo: SMHRIC

An official who picked up the telephone at the local government said he was unable to confirm any deaths and declined to comment further.

However, the government posted on its official microblog on Monday that it had ordered the chemical zone to close and shift to an undisclosed location and that it would punish any companies that flouted the law.

The government also said that it would go after protesters who blocked roads, smashed vehicles, stoked tension or spread rumours.


About 90,000 “mass incidents” – a euphemism for protests – occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances.

Aware at the anger over environmental problems, the Chinese government has declared a war on pollution, vowing to abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China’s water, skies and soil.