A few days ago, hundreds of Mongolians from Tulee Gachaa, Naiman Banner & Mingren Sum of the Tong Liao Municipality protested at the site of a land dispute in Inner Mongolia resulting in a clash with over 80 local Chinese police who brutally put down the demonstrations. Dozens of protesters were injured and 22 individuals were indefinitely detained by the police.
Now however, authorities have released those 22 individuals only after days of protests and calls for the release of the detainees by more protesters who had marched to the government headquarters of Inner Mongolia.
Originally, the authorities promised to release the detainees only on the condition that they all sign an agreement to stop protesting the illegal encroachment of their owned lands by the Xing Long Gao Forestry Company.
Land disputes between the Xing Long Gao Forestry Company and the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia have flared over the past year which have seen to the largest protests in the past few months by Mongolians in decades.
The deaths of activists and protesters who tried to block trucks and bulldozers only helped to enrage ethnic Mongolians.
Like the Uighurs, the Cantonese, the Tuvans, the Kazakhs & Tibetans, the ethnic Mongolian peoples are wary of the ethnic Han Chinese population taking over their customs, lands and histories.
Besides the serious ethnic conflict between the Mongolians and the Han Chinese, the incredibly fast rate of industrialization within Mongolia has started to wreak social havoc while inversely boosting the economy.
The Mongolian government’s decision to market its vast reserves of natural resources such as coal has led to a boom in the industry and a skyrocketing growth in the economy. As seen with the case of the Xing Long Gao Forestry Company, this sudden free-for-all has left many inhabitants confused and incredibly sensitive regarding their lands.
Financial analysts are predicting, despite the presence of other issues in Mongolia, that the per capita GDP of Mongolia will most likely double by the end of 2013.
As a negative side effect of the growing economy and mining industries, more and more Mongolians are forced to relocate towards the cities and mines, many working illegally under terrible conditions, while those who have roots in the tradition of herding livestock and cultivating crops are facing more difficulties.
The difficulties of daily lives for those herding livestock are made even worse by the annual “dzuds” that have been recently killing off millions of goats and other livestock while hampering crop growth which subsequently led to critically low levels in the availability of food in 2010.
Herders especially are always the ones who gets the blunt end of the Dzud. The extreme weather conditions can kill livestock which is the heart of Mongolia’s rural economy.
Herders make money off of wool, meat, skins, and selling/raising livestock while cycling through high debts buying more livestock in hopes of paying the debt back with an increase in what they sell. According to the World Bank, 35% of Mongolia’s population earn a living from their herds.
One dzud alone killed off more than 4.5 million animals, a staggering 10% of the country’s population of livestock. Quite obviously, the deaths of their herds will force many herders and their families into poverty and again cause many to do what they did back in the years from 1999 to 2003: become drifters.
Years ago, a similar devestating dzud caused thousands of families to move into the outskirts of Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia where they lived in extremely poor conditions. Others wandered off to find illegal jobs such as becoming illegal gold miners or doing what they can to survive off the land.
Those who fall victim to sickness get stuck in inadequate hospitals that do not have the appropriate rooms for patients. The tides of sick nomads and herders often push hospital staffs into a tiring frenzy of taking care of the sick for the past months. Farmers are also bitter over these frequent dzuds as they are unable to stockpile food for themselves and the livestock over a long period of time.
Mongolia’s national budget is nearly stretched to its limit, so predictably it cannot withstand another 1999-2003 scenario which would be augmented with ethnic conflicts and industrialization. The organizations assisting the people are also reaching their capacity in providing much needed help.
(Cover Photo: Mongolians protest in front of Naiman Banner Government building. Banner reads “Stop Illegal Detention, Release Detainees, and Return Our Land”/SMHRIC Photos)