Ethnic Mongolians have staged a rare protest demonstration in northern China after a shepherd was killed, according to the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre. (SMHRIC).
Human rights activists said 2,000 students of Mongol descent protested outside a government office building in Xilinhot, a city Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China that borders the country of Mongolia.
On May 10, a Mongolian herder named Mergen was allegedly run over and killed by a van driven by a man who is of Han Chinese descent, the dominant ethnic group in China.
The demonstration is the latest in a series of protests, with more planned.
The Xilinhot government, which has not explicitly commented on the protest, said in the statement that police arrested two Han Chinese for murder.
According to BBC, there are about 6-million ethnic Mongols in China and their ancient nomadic, pastoral lifestyle is endangered by the rapid expansion of coal mining in the region.
Mergen and other herders were reportedly trying to prevent a convoy of coal-hauling trucks in the Xilingol area, where an influx of mostly Han Chinese miners has threatened to displace the traditional Mongolian herders.
According to Reuters, Mongolians are now a minority in Inner Mongolia, accounting for less than 20 percent of the region’s population.
A local resident told the BBC: In the past Mongolian herdsmen seldom held protests, but now they are rising up because the damage to the grassland is so serious, plus the desertification, lack of rain that it is becoming intolerable.”
Ethnic Mongols have also long complained of repression and discrimination by the Beijing government.
Mongol bloggers are calling for a major protest in the provincial capital of Hohhot on May 30.
The demonstrations are designed to urge the Chinese authorities to respect the rights and dignity of Mongolian herders in Inner Mongolia, SMHIRC said in a statement.