Security Tightens Around Home of Ethnic Mongolian Dissident Hada

Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have placed a prominent ethnic Mongolian dissident under closer surveillance, ahead of a top-level political congress in Beijing.

Hada, who was incarcerated for 19 years for his activism on behalf of ethnic Mongolian herding communities and his wife Xinna, who still acts as advocate for herders in disputes over the region’s grasslands, said a group of ethnic Mongolian herders seeking advice over a land dispute were turned away from his home by state security police on Thursday.

The couple is now being ever more closely followed, including by ethnic Mongolian police officers who speak their language, they said.

Police have also added a number of sentry posts outside the block where Hada has lived following his transfer from detention to house arrest, he told RFA on Friday.

“They have moved into the corridor outside, and into the apartment opposite,” he said. “Most afternoons, I like to walk around the grounds for about an hour, but lately a lot of people have been following me.”

“They are very tense; you could say that they are sticking to me like leeches,” said Hada, who said the extra security is likely linked to the forthcoming five-yearly congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party on Oct. 18.

The authorities have also locked the main gates to the residential compound, forcing everyone to enter and leave via a smaller, side-door, the couple told RFA.

“[On Thursday], herders from all over the region came to see Hada,” Hada’s wife Xinna told RFA. “They had already registered, and were about to enter the apartment, when three plainclothes police came up and very roughly prevented the herders from going inside.”

“They haven’t shown any identification yet,” she said.

Video of the gates to the residential compound shot by Xinna showed several uniformed security personnel scrutinizing people moving in and out via a side-door in the gates.

Xinna shot footage of two of the “plainclothes” officers, who were dressed in casual clothes with no obvious official identification, and who didn’t resemble the neatly dressed state security police often seen patrolling China’s streets at a time of security alert.

“Hada still isn’t free, not even to have visitors,” Xinna said. “I am shooting this video to make a record, to let the whole world know how shameless and illegal the state security police are in their actions.”

Surveillance and other restrictions

Last month, the couple’s access to the popular smartphone chat service WeChat was permanently revoked over by the authorities, who accused them of using social media to “spread evil rumors.”

Xinna has helped an unknown number of ethnic Mongolian herders petition the authorities and find lawyers to fight their claims to their traditional grazing lands that are increasingly being taken over by Han Chinese migrants or state-owned companies.

Sixty-one-year-old Hada, who currently lives in a police apartment in Hohhot, regional capital of Inner Mongolia, was released from extrajudicial detention in December 2014, four years after his 15-year jail term for “separatism” and “espionage” ended, but has remained under close police surveillance and numerous restrictions, including a travel ban and frozen bank accounts.

Hada has taken issue with his alleged “confession,” to the charges, saying that it was obtained under torture and after being given unidentified drugs.

He has also said he expects to stay locked up for as long as the ruling Chinese Communist Party remains in power.

The couple have had their power and heating switched off, but have turned down requests of social subsistence payments from the government, because they came with conditions attached.

Ethnic Mongolians, who make up almost 20 percent of Inner Mongolia’s population of 23 million, increasingly complain of widespread environmental destruction and unfair development policies in the region.

Clashes between Chinese state-backed mining or forestry companies and herding communities are common in the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.

Hada has said routine evictions of herders from their traditional grazing lands, often in the name of ecological protection, are part of a calculated program of ethnic cleansing in the region.

RFA(Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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