Protests after herder is run down by coal truck
Hundreds of ethnic Mongolians protested outside a local government headquarters in Inner Mongolia on Monday, with hundreds of middle school pupils taking to the streets the next day, after a herder was allegedly killed by two Han Chinese truck drivers, a rights watchdog and online postings said.
Unrest is rare in Inner Mongolia, a relatively stable minority region.
According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, protesters gathered outside the main administration office of the Right Ujumchin Banner, while hundreds more were blocked on their way. A banner is the Mongolian equivalent of a county.
The rights group said campuses were guarded by police to prevent student protests. But bloggers who posted online accounts with pictures yesterday said the incident had provoked hundreds of middle school pupils to march to the city-level Xilinhot government office on Tuesday.
The demonstrators were protesting against the brutal death of Mergen, an organiser of the banner's Mongolian herders, who tried to stop coal-hauling trucks from taking a shortcut across fragile grazing land, the centre said.
The centre posted photos of Monday's demonstration and others said to be of Mergen's body. It said his head had been crushed under the wheels of a 100-tonne coal hauler driven by two Han Chinese drivers on May 10 and his body dragged by the truck for 150 metres.
Xinhua yesterday confirmed the brutal killing of Mergen, although local officials reached yesterday played down the demonstrations.
Xinhua quoted Shen Wenyin, deputy chief of the Xilingol League government as telling a press conference on Tuesday night that Mergen had been dragged by a coal truck as he attempted to block it. Shen said two Han Chinese drivers, Li Lindong and Lu Xiangdong, had been arrested by police after they fled in a taxi.
Shen confirmed that there had been another fatal coal mine dispute in the league's Abag Banner - which online postings said had further provoked the protesters in the past two days. Shen said residents in a mining area in Abag had tried to stop operations at a nearby coal mine on May 14 because of noise, dust and water pollution. One of them, Yan Wenlong, 22, was killed when Sun Shuning, a worker, drove a forklift truck into Yan's car. Sun was arrested for intentional homicide, Xinhua reported.
Wu Zhu, the head of the township government overseeing the village where Mergen lived, confirmed that 'some locals' had taken to the streets over Mergen's death. But he said: 'Maybe it is not that appropriate to put it as 'a protest': they simply asked for compensation.'
Wu said police had been sent to restore order and that the area was calm yesterday.
Rising political star Hu Chunhua, widely believed to be a close ally of President Hu Jintao, is party boss of Inner Mongolia.