Lhamjab Borjigin published a book documenting Chinese atrocities against his people. Now he’s under arrest.

Lhamjab is from Inner Mongolia, a part of China bordering the independent nation of Mongolia. His book collects moving testimonies of ethnic Mongolians who survived the Chinese Communist Party–backed campaign of oppression during the Cultural Revolution.

Lhamjab’s book charges the Chinese government with carrying out an organized campaign of genocide and torture. Chinese authorities charged Lhamjab with:

  • “National separatism”
  • “Sabotaging national unity”
  • “Illegal publication and distribution”

China held his trial in secret.

Lhamjab detailed the charges to an organization that advocates for Mongolian rights.

“I defended myself by asking whether those who committed the genocide in southern Mongolia or the ones like myself who talked about this genocide should be considered ‘sabotaging the national unity,’” Lhamjab said.

Rising tensions in Inner Mongolia

Lhamjab is one of several ethnic Mongolian authors arrested recently in Inner Mongolia. Tensions in the region have increased as state-backed mining and forestry companies have come into conflict with local herders over land rights, Radio Free Asia reports.

Shepherd standing in field with sheep and coal plant in background (© Ryan Pyle/Corbis/Getty Images)
A herder near a coal power plant in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, where industrial and pastoral ways of life often conflict. (© Ryan Pyle/Corbis/Getty Images)

Mongolians who live overseas accuse the Chinese government of “human rights violations, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against ethnic Mongolians within China’s borders, as well as longstanding policies aimed at ending their traditional, nomadic way of life,” according to Radio Free Asia.

The charge parallels the situation in Xinjiang, where Beijing promotes Chinese nationalism and systematically represses the ethnic identities, culture and religious practices of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, and other Muslims.

“The Chinese government’s actions are intended to ensure that distinct ethnic and religious peoples are brutally and forcefully controlled,” U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told a June 6 conference on China’s oppression of ethnic and religious minorities.

As for Lhamjab, literature and human rights organization PEN America calls his arrest “a continued attack on freedom of expression and historical inquiry in Southern Mongolia.”

“We Mongolians do not have any basic human rights or fundamental freedoms, let alone political autonomy,” Lhamjab concluded.