* China's Mongolians protest for 5th day in rare sign of
* Students locked up in some schools to prevent
participation in protests
* Resource extraction has eroded way of life for Mongolians
(Refiles, changing headline)
By Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING, May 27 Chinese authorities sealed off
parts of the northern region of Inner Mongolia on Friday in what
residents described as martial law, to try to quell a fifth day
of protests by ethnic Mongolians over the death of a herder in a
China keeps a tight grip over Inner Mongolia and other
strategic border regions including Tibet and Xinjiang, which are
home to large numbers of ethnic minorities, as well as being
rich in natural resources.
But China's Mongolians, who make up less than 20 percent of
the roughly 24 million population of the Inner Mongolian
Autonomous Region, rarely take to the streets, unlike Tibetans
or Xinjiang's Uighurs, making the latest protests highly
Residents in Shuluun Huh Banner, or Zheng Lan Qi in Chinese,
and Left Ujumchin Banner, or Xi Wu Qi in Chinese, near Inner
Mongolia's Xilinhot city, told Reuters that martial law was
imposed on Friday. Banner is a traditional term for county.
"There was martial law declared this morning," said one
resident of Shuluun Huh Banner who gave her name as Tana. "It's
still ongoing with fewer guards right now, but some police are
on the street."
Despite this, hundreds of Mongolians defied the tighter
security and marched towards the government building in Shuluun
Huh Banner before noon, said Enghebatu Togochog of the New
York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre.
"Students have been locked up in their schools and they
aren't allowed to join in their protests," Togochog said, adding
that one or two high schools and several middle schools have
been sealed off.
Asked to comment on the protests, an official answering the
telephone at the Inner Mongolia government's propaganda office
said: "I have no time, goodbye," before hanging up.
An official at the Left Ujumchin Banner, where protests took
place on Thursday, also hung up on being asked about the
protests. Repeated calls to the Shuluun Huh government were not
STATE OF SIEGE
"It has been in a state of siege since this morning,
everything was fine here yesterday," said a resident surnamed
Zhou in Ujumchin Banner. "At the moment, police are patrolling
An official in the bus station near the government building
in Left Ujumchin Banner, who refused to give her name, said all
buses had stopped since the morning because of martial law.
The protests were set off by the death earlier this month of
a Mongolian herder, Mergen, who was killed when he was struck by
a coal truck. The government has announced the arrest of two Han
Chinese for homicide, though this has failed to stem public
The latest demonstrations have broadened their scope, with
those taking part demanding greater official protection for
their culture and traditional way of life.
Inner Mongolia, which covers more than a tenth of China's
land mass and borders Mongolia proper, is supposed to offer a
high degree of self-rule.
In practice, though, Mongolians say the Han Chinese majority
run the show and have been the main beneficiaries of economic
Inner Mongolia is China's largest producer of coal, a
commodity that feeds well over half the country's power plants
and on which China depends for its breakneck economic growth.
"The rapid development of resource extraction has resulted
in a terrible blow to the interests of the Mongolians,"
Tumen-ulzii, an ethnic Mongolian Chinese living in exile in the
Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, told Reuters by telephone.
"People just can't stand it any more," he said. "They have
no way of following their traditional way of life. The death of
Mergen has become a spark, it has united the whole Mongolian
people (in China)."
(Additional reporting by Huang Yan and Sabrina Mao; Editing by