The Mongolians in China number about five million and are struggling to maintain their identity and their culture. Now China has clamped down on the autonomous region known as Inner Mongolia, which lies within the boundaries of China, and shares a border with Mongolia, and Russia. China has declared martial law in the region. Generally, the people of Inner Mongolia have remained peaceful and passive over the years; Inner Mongolian intellectuals and writers have called on China to respect their human rights, but these calls have been rewarded by detention, and in some cases lengthy imprisonment. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International point out that protests in other regions, Xinjiang and Tibet, have been met with severe repression. But unlike the populations of Xingjian and Tibet, the Inner Mongolians seldom resort to visible protestation.
About 2000 students of Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia came out to demonstrate and to show solidarity with a killed livestock herder named Mergen on Wednesday. The students chanted "Protect our land, protect our rights!" Some claim that many students are locked in their schools, to prevent them from joining the protest. Photos support the version of Amnesty International, and clearly show the standoff between students and police. There hasn’t as yet been any violence in Xilinhot, but there are reports of about 18 injuries in nearby towns.
The current demonstrations in Inner Mongolia are the result of the local herder being killed by a hit-and-run driver. Inner Mongolians usually go by one name only; the herder, Mergen, one of a group of herders who were angered by conditions, and trying to block a convoy of coal trucks, was struck and killed by one of the trucks. This occured on May 10 of this year.