Prominent anti-China activist arrested in Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar (AFP) – A prominent anti-China activist has been arrested in Mongolia, part of what activists said is a wider effort to “clean up” criticism of Beijing in the country.
Landlocked Mongolia depends on mineral exports to its giant neighbors Russia and China, but there have also been protests in the capital Ulaanbaatar against Beijing’s language policy in Inner Mongolia.
Critics of the policy in the Chinese border region – home to around 4.5 million ethnic Mongols – say it mirrors moves in other regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet to assimilate local minorities into the culture Han dominant and eradicate minority languages.
Munkhbayar Chuluundorj was arrested in Ulaanbaatar on Friday on suspicion of “receiving instructions and funds from a foreign intelligence group”, the country’s spy agency said.
The General Intelligence Agency (GIA) said it had “engaged in illegal cooperative activities”, but gave no further details.
Activists said they suspected Munkhbayar’s comments about China had placed him under official surveillance.
In Facebook posts, he recently called on the Mongolian prime minister to resign over his close relationship with Beijing, saying “our nation’s independence will be lost and all citizens of Mongolia will become slaves to China.”
Footage of the arrest published by Mongolian outlet Eguur News shows a man led away by armed police on a road lined with shops.
Visits from relatives are being denied and a closed trial is underway, said the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, a foreign NGO that defends ethnic Mongolians, citing his brother Munkh- erdene.
The NGO said Munkhbayar is “one of the strongest critics of the Mongolian government’s warm relationship with China”.
Munkhbayar has “advocated for the human rights, culture, history and land rights of Inner Mongolia”, according to Baljinima Bai, a language rights advocate from Inner Mongolia.
“Mongolia has started ‘cleaning up’ those people… who oppose China,” he told AFP.
Bai said he was also summoned for questioning by the GIA in relation to the Munkhbayar case.
Inner Mongolian activists in Mongolia say they faced threats and intimidation from authorities after widespread protests against Chinese language curriculum reforms across the border faced severe police repression.
Activists also claim that China pressured Mongolia to deport Inner Mongolian political refugees back to the country.
© 2022 AFP