Coal protesters show solidarity with the people of South Mongolia, and stand against China's crackdown on freedom of expression

Today, 30th May 2011, a small group of anti-coal protesters rallied to a call out by South Mongolian human rights activists for global protest [1] and held a short vigil outside the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh. This comes at the end of a month of protests in Mongolia against the Chinese coal industries destruction of Mongolian herders land in which two people have been killed. One was a Mongolian herder and local anti-coal activist, Mergen, who was deliberately run over by by a coal truck while trying to stop it from taking short cuts across herders land on the 10th of May. According to the Guardian another protester was killed four days later [2].

These protests have rattled the Chinese state, which has responded with brutal crack-downs, and total censorship. Cities in South Mongolia are awash with para-military police and intense surveillance as areas are placed under Martial Law [3]. Internet a phone communication has been shut down. This is a continuation of the repression of people who dare to stand up for the rights of Mongolians. One case of particular concern to the South Mongolia Human Rights Information Centre is that of Mr Hada and his family [4].

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) has been hit hard during what one human rights organisation is calling the “coal rush.” Last year IMAR’s coal exports exceeded 700 million tons, with an estimated 732.3 billion tons of coal reserves still under the ground. This extraction has come at the expense of the local population and environment. The Mongolian people who have herded livestock on the land for generations are now being thrown from their land and Chinese coal corporations are moving in to dig up the coal. During the extraction convoys of coal trucks have been taking short cuts through herders land, destroying fences and livestock. Bayaguut, a Southern Mongolian cyber dissident, said “this really is a three-dimensional attack on us by the Chinese: they have destroyed our land, polluted our air, and now digging up what we have below ground. What we will be left with is a barren land uninhabitable to human beings.” [5]

The protest in Edinburgh was held at midday and the group held placards with slogans such as "End China's Coal Rush" "Justice For Mergen Killed By The Coal Industry" and "Stop The Killings In Southern Mongolia!" One also called for the release of political prisoners in Mongolia. The protest was organised at short notice by people from Coal Action Scotland, a group which takes direct action and works with communities facing the coal industry in Scotland.

Luke Douglas, who attended the protest, said "It's really important to show solidarity with the people of Southern Mongolia, and to show the Chinese state that there are people outside of Mongolia and outside of their control who are watching what's going on. The brutal repression of the herders and students protesting is despicable. People should not be imprisoned just for calling for human rights and cultural and political freedom. I am inspired by the bravery by the people protesting in Southern Mongolia, and hope that today's protest helps them in some way."

Tammy Price added "I've worked with communities in Scotland who have been affected by the Coal industry. The health and environmental impacts of the open casts, plus the disruption caused by the transport of the coal, are devastating. It's important to have a global perspective on coal as an issue, as it is one that affects people all across the world. As well as people in Scotland, we have previously heard from those in Indonesia [6], Columbia [7] and the US [8] fighting against the Coal industry. The coal industry globally is responsible for environmental destruction, human rights abuses, corruption and colonialism on a scale difficult to fathom until you start making these links between people affected on a global scale."

Coal Action Scotland