Amidst escalating protests by Mongolian herders in Southern (Inner) Mongolia, on January 19, 2015, a herder named Mr. Tumur, 45 years old, from Zargalant Sum (“ji ri ga lang tu sum u” in Chinese) of Abag Banner (“a ba ga qi”), western Southern Mongolia, hanged himself to death from the Sum Government building gate in protest of the authorities’ illegal occupation of his grazing land.
According to written appeals the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) received from the deceased’s relatives, Tumur had been petitioning the local government for years for the return of his grazing land illegally occupied during a “help the poor initiative.” Relatives revealed that Tumur was active in organizing herders to demand the government punishment of corrupt officials and to provide justice for herders.
Pictures of the suicide scene went viral on major Chinese social media outlets, including WebChat, Sina, and Tencent sites. Mongolian netizens demanded justice for the deceased and rallied for the survival of the Mongolians as a distinct people.
As the crisis deepened in the Southern Mongolian rural pastoralist communities, on the morning of January 26, 2015, some 300 Mongolian herders from western Southern Mongolia’s Durbed Banner (“si zi wang qi”), Sunid Right Banner (“su ni te you qi”), Urad Middle Banner (“wu la te qian qi”), and Shiliin-hot (“xi lin hao te”) gathered and protested in front of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Many of the participants were herders who had protested the Chinese Central Military Commission and State Bureau of Letters and Calls in Beijing since January 11, 2015. They demanded that Chinese authorities return their land and redress their losses due to land grabs by the military base, extractive industry, and “ecological migration” policy.