Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Why does the world ignore Southern Mongolia?

The following an English translation of Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj’s recent article written at the Prison No.421 in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia. A citizen of the independent country of Mongolia, long-time journalist, writer and human rights activist, Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year by a Mongolian court for “engaging in spying activities against the People’s Republic of China”. (English translation by SMHRIC):

Once unified, my nation of Mongolia remains a partitioned state today. The Southern Mongolians, comprising most of the Mongolian people, have been suffering as the victims of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies of assimilation and genocide. 

Southern Mongolians are the indigenous Mongolians living within the borders of the People’s Republic of China, while Northern Mongolians are the indigenous Mongolians living in the territories of the independent country of Mongolia. Southern Mongolians are also known as “Inner Mongolians.” 

The Mongolian people had never been subjects of any Chinese nation nor been ruled the Chinese before 1912 when the Chinese people declared their independence. Only since then, the Chinese state started invading parts of the Mongolian Nation that restored its independence in 1911. 

Before 1912, the Chinese were the subjects of the Qing empire (Manchu Qing). The Qing empire was not a Chinese state, despite the global misconception implying otherwise. During the Qing era, the Chinese had no state of their own and instead lived under foreign domination. 

Therefore, the claim that “Mongolia should be a part of China” is invalid and baseless. How nonsensical would it be if India claimed that “all the nations and territories that were once ruled by Great Britain should be part of the nation and territory of India”?

The multi-national empire of Qing was founded by the Manchu people through a series of invasions and occupations. Only through deception, divide-and-conquer efforts, and invasion was the Mongolian nation put under the Manchu rule. Before then, in addition to the unified Northern and Southern Mongolian state, the Western Mongolians maintained another powerful empire called the “Zungaar empire,” which later was destroyed by the Manchus through a massive genocide campaign. 

Certainly, the ruling elites of the Qing empire were the Manchus. Conditions of the subjects of this empire, especially among the Mongolians, were deplorable. In 1911, even before the Chinese started seeking national independence from Qing, Mongolians from both Northern and Southern Mongolia had already declared their restoration of independence from Qing and established their own sovereign state. Soon after, this Mongolian state implemented a series of policies to unite all parts of historical Mongolia and even embarked on military campaigns to re-capture occupied territories. These missions were not accomplished, however, due to interventions from Russia and China. 

Against all odds, the Southern Mongolians have never given up their aspiration for uniting with the independent state of Mongolia. They fought tirelessly against the Chinese invasion and oppression through all possible means, including armed resistance. The newly established Chinese regime was ultimately unable to put Southern Mongolians under its control. 

When the Japanese established the Manchukuo, the eastern part of Southern Mongolia became part of the new state. Mongolians in the western part of Southern Mongolia continued their movement of national independence under the leadership of Mongolian nationalists headed by Prince Demchegdonrov. 

In accordance with a secret treaty, Japan was determined to maintain the status quo of the “Outer Mongolia” but categorically rejected Southern Mongolians’ aspiration to unite with the Mongolian state in the north. The so-called “Outer Mongolia” is the de facto independent state of Mongolia, officially known as the Mongolian People’s Republic or modern-day Mongolia. Similarly, Southern Mongolia, known as “Uvur Mongol” by the Mongolians themselves, was also called “Inner Mongolia” in the Western world. 

Unaware the secret treaty even existed, the Mongolian People’s Republic had actively been engaged in the Second World War, providing ammunition and manpower to fight the Japanese to help liberate Southern Mongolia. Southern Mongolians welcomed this engagement as an excellent opportunity for reunification. However, this dream of the Southern Mongolians was shuttered as the Mongolian People’s Republic failed to overthrow the secret decision made by the global superpowers at the conclusion of the Second World War. 

Promising to honor the Southern Mongolians’ rights to self-determination and total independence, the Chinese Communists led by Mao illegally put Southern Mongolia under the control of Communist China through the criminal means of ethnic cleansing, deception, and military occupation. This period started a new era of suffering among Southern Mongolians. 

Mao’s regime  perpetrated an unprecedented range and magnitude of violence against Southern Mongolians. Especially, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution that was first launched in Southern Mongolia, Southern Mongolians became the biggest victim among all other so-called “minority nationalities.” Unspeakable torture and killing engulfed the entire nation of Southern Mongolia. During that period, hundreds of thousands of Southern Mongolians were tortured to death or permanently maimed. All these horrendous crimes against humanity were perpetrated by the Chinese in the name of purging the members of the “Inner Mongolian People’s Party.” 

After the Cultural Revolution, China began to move toward a market economy, and consequently, the Chinese government announced that Southern Mongolian herders can own grazing land and livestock. This shift was followed by a decision to accelerate the population transfer from China proper to Southern Mongolia. In response to this decision, Mongolian students across Southern Mongolia launched a region-wide mass protest in 1981, forcing the Chinese central government to temporarily halt its plan. 

For Southern Mongolians, as the most oppressed people deprived of their indigenous knowledge and traditional way of life, the transition to a market economy has been a genocidal one. In addition to fencing off the livestock and limiting nomads’ mobility, the Chinese regime also grabbed the herders’ lands and banned the livestock grazing using a wide variety of pretexts, such as “land use term has expired”, “develop mining and tourism”, “pastoralism is destroying ecosystem”, “productive land must be used by the state”, “and degraded land must be recovered,” among others. 

In 2011, Southern Mongolians took to the streets and staged a mass protest in response to a Chinese truck driver’s brutal killing of a Mongolian herder named Mergen who tried to defend his land from Chinese miners. The protest quickly spread across the region, becoming the largest protest in Southern Mongolia since 1981. 

Since then, protests and demonstrations by Southern Mongolian herders have never stopped. Almost every year, heroic herders have lost their lives in defense of their land. In 2017, the government of China adopted much harsher measures to ban and crack down on herders’ protests and criminalized herders en masse. That same year the Mongolian language was banned in Mongolian areas of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In 2020, the Chinese Communist regime launched a renewed attack on Mongolian language and culture in Southern Mongolia. Mongolian language instruction has thus drastically declined in Mongolian schools throughout Southern Mongolia. In response, Southern Mongolian parents stood up. They took to the streets, staged protests, went on strikes, and sent petitions to the authorities. Some even committed suicide in protest of the new policy. 

Unprepared Chinese authorities were panicked by the Southern Mongolian protest given China’s success in quelling Hong Kong protest and locking down the entire population in the name of COVID-19 restrictions, bolstering Chinese confidence in preventing any other protest. Still, the Chinese authorities acted promptly to put down the Southern Mongolian protest, and subsequently adopted a harsh Xinjiang-style policy in Southern Mongolia, aiming to achieve the total erasure of the Mongolian language and the Mongolian people. The entire region of Southern Mongolia has also been placed under de facto martial law like in Tibet and Xinjiang. 

The world! Why do you turn a deaf ear to the voices of the Southern Mongolians who are suffering behind the iron curtain? Is the suffering of the Southern Mongolians still not enough to draw your attention? How many more lives must be lost? How much more bloodshed must transpire? How many more livelihoods must be destroyed? How much more erasure of Mongolian culture must occur? How much more repression is considered enough? The world is now paying attention to the previously neglected Kurds, Uyghurs, and Rohingyas. But Southern Mongolians are still neglected. 

Why is the world not paying attention to Southern Mongolia? Even the independent country of Mongolia and its citizens are not paying attention. Is it because those Mongolian citizens who defended their fellow brothers and sisters in Southern Mongolia are sentenced to 10 years in prison for “engaging in activities against China” by the Mongolian court? Are the Southern Mongolians not worthy of enjoying human rights and freedom? Do the Southern Mongolians deserve being wiped out from the face of earth? 

Why does the world—and especially the Western democratic world—not feel shame for discriminating against the Southern Mongolians who are already discriminated against enough by the Chinese authorities? 

I demand an answer to this question of “why”!

[Original article in Mongolian is available here]

Author profile

Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC)

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