One of the country's longest-serving political prisoners, the ethnic Mongol dissident Hada, who spent much of the last two decades behind bars, has been freed, a family member said yesterday. Beijing fears ethnic unrest in strategic border areas and keeps a tight rein on Inner Mongolia , just as it does on Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west, even though the region is supposed to have a large measure of autonomy. "He's not in good health," the dissident's uncle, Haschuluu, said, adding that Hada's younger brother had told him of the release, which took place yesterday morning in Hohhot , the capital of Inner Mongolia. He declined to comment further. Many Mongols in China go by just one name. Hada was tried behind closed doors in 1996 and jailed for 15 years for separatism, spying and supporting the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, which sought greater rights for China's ethnic Mongols. He said the charges were trumped up. After being released in December 2010, he had to serve a separate four-year sentence of "deprivation of political rights", mostly in an illegal detention centre in Inner Mongolia, his family said. Hada's wife Xinna, who lives in Hohhot, and their son, Uiles, have also been in and out of detention over the past few years. Calls to the Inner Mongolia government to seek comment went unanswered.