“China Extends Hand and Fist to Protesters”

The New York Times has a good piece up with some quotes from Mongolian locals. In line with what I said yesterday about how the current Chinese strategy is focused on the short-term, while actively sacrificing their long-term prospects:

Although news about the turmoil has been scrubbed from the Web, local Communist Party officials and the police have been painting the protesters as subversives intent on fanning ethnic disunity. Asked about the demonstrations on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu echoed that theme, blaming unnamed overseas forces for stirring up the trouble. “Their attempts are doomed to failure,” she said during a regular news briefing.

In interviews, some of which took place through the wrought-iron fences surrounding their campuses, several students objected to such characterizations, saying they were driven to protest by news of the death of Mergen, the shepherd killed by a coal-filled truck on May 15, and by stories about the ecological destruction wrought by Chinese-owned mines.

But their passion quickly turned to more esoteric matters: the disappearance of the region’s ancient grazing culture and pride in an identity that has been diluted by decades of migration from other parts of China.

“I’m tired of seeing my language disappear while all these banners at school shout about promoting the Mongolian tongue,” said Naranbaatar, a history student at Hohhot Nationality University who like many Mongolians uses one name.

Another student, speaking by cellphone, said students were becoming increasingly agitated. “We are not sheep or cows,” said the student, who described himself as Xiao Ming, a Chinese name. “The longer they keep us locked away, the angrier we will become.”

“Uh… maybe a foreigner did it?” is pretty played out as excuses go here.  But more importantly: sure, the public square is clear today.  Protest averted, harmony restored.  But how many of these same protesters will be even angrier when this ends?  How many Mongolians have come to understand exactly how their relationship with Beijing works?  How many apolitical students are being forced to consider their place in China while their dormitory room doubles as a detention cell?  I don’t think Zhongnanhai is doing itself any favors with this one.

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Filed under China, ethnic conflict, Inner Mongolia, protests

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