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Inner Mongolia Unrest Prompts China to Change Mining Rules

China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region said it will take measures to improve the mining industry, part of new rules following protests by ethnic Mongolians sparked when a coal truck ran over a herdsman.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the regional government will probe the industry’s impact on the environment and the livelihoods of local residents, and improve the training and management of mining personnel. At the same time, China is deploying police across the province to quell protests and information on the unrest is unavailable on news websites.

Protests erupted last week in cities including Xilinhot, 493 miles (793 kilometers) north of Beijing after the herdsman’s death earlier this month. The U.S.-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said the herdsman, named Mergen, was trying to stop coal-mining trucks from crossing pastureland. The unrest by minorities in Inner Mongolia follows deadly riots in western China’s Xinjiang region in 2009 and in Tibet in 2008.

Recent incidents “have triggered a great deal of public anger,” Hu Chunhua, the Communist Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia, told teachers and students in the region on May 27, according to a May 28 report in the official Inner Mongolian Daily. “We will firmly protect the dignity of law and the rights of the victims and their families.”

Protests Erupt

Protests have taken place in several Inner Mongolian towns and cities since the death and martial law was declared in several cities, according to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, citing local residents.

Large numbers of police patrolled the regional capital, Hohhot, especially around the main square where Internet messages over the weekend urged people to protest today, the Associated Press reported, citing people reached by phone. Police blanketed Chifeng city, scene of protests yesterday, residents reached by phone told AP.

China’s politburo, chaired by President Hu Jintao, held a meeting today on reinforcing social management, the Xinhua News Agency reported today. China is at a development stage with prominent social conflicts, it said. Solving problems in social management requires urgent and long-term efforts, it said.

News on the events is restricted in China. Nasdaq-listed Sina Corp.’s microblog returns the following message when the Chinese characters for “Inner Mongolia” are entered in a search box: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results have not been displayed.” Liu Qi, a spokesman for the Shanghai-based company, said he hadn’t heard of the unrest and “wasn’t clear” about any restrictions.

Web Restrictions

A report on the local Xilingol government Web site that has been posting information on what the Inner Mongolian official media calls the “5.11 Incident” after the day of Mergen’s death, is also unavailable in searches inside and outside of China.

Ren Yaping, 58, the deputy party secretary for Inner Mongolia and a member of the majority Han ethnic group, was shown on a May 28 midday broadcast on Inner Mongolia television visiting Mergen’s family and expressing “grief at this unfortunate situation.” The report said the perpetrators, who had been arrested, “would be severely punished according to law.” He presented the family with what appeared to be a 10,000-yuan bundle of 100-yuan bills.

On the same broadcast, Guo Shuyun, the chairman of Liaoning Chuncheng Industry & Trade Group Co., the coal company whose truck was involved in the killing, was shown visiting Mergen’s family, making a deep bow. At a televised press conference, he apologized with a 90-degree bow to the audience and said his company would respect herders’ livelihoods and protect the environment. A person at the Fuxin, China-based company hung up the phone when asked about the incident.

More Subsidies

The Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said the government would increase subsidies in the region by more than half. Hu, 48, nicknamed “Little Hu,” in reference to President Hu Jintao, is a rising star in the Communist Party and mentioned by analysts of Chinese politics as a future top national leader. Calls made to the Inner Mongolia government to ask about the measures went unanswered.

Ethnic Mongolians make up less than one-fifth of the population of Inner Mongolia, which has about 24 million people living in an area bigger than France, Spain and Portugal combined.

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