China is going all out to crack down on demonstrations by ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia, which marks the latest and biggest outbreak of ethnic unrest in China in 30 years.
A string of protests since last week was sparked by the death of an ethnic Mongolian herder named Mergen on May 10th.
He was the victim of a hit-and-run by a coal truck driven by a Han Chinese, the country's largest ethnic group, while trying to stop it, along with a group of others, from trespassing over their grazing lands.
Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China like Tibet, borders the Republic of Mongolia, also known as Outer Mongolia, and less than 20 percent of its 24 million people are ethnic Mongolians.
The region is China's biggest coal-producing area to which drivers rush to deliver coal to major Chinese cities.
As the herder was killed in defiance over the Chinese government's mining activities which destroy prairies the incident is also characterized as an outburst of the nomadic minority's anxiety over industrialization, which is marginalizing their livelihood and rights.
According to CNN, several hundred residents of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, gathered at Xinhua Square on Monday, chanting slogans and demanding rights for the Mongolian people.
Similar protests were also staged in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, and even a small gathering in Japan of ethic Mongolians and Japanese.
Responding to a show of rare defiance by ethnic Mongolians, China tightened security and intensified censorship of the Internet to stop the spread of the protests.
Rights groups stated that martial law was declared in some cities of Inner Mongolia following the protests over Mergen's death, although local government officials deny the report.
And international media sources reported that Chinese paramilitary troops deployed to the autonomous region sealed off parts of Hohhot on Monday and arrested dozens of protesters.
Kim Yeon-ji, Arirang News.