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Repression in Inner Mongolia continues as jailed journalist mistreated and websites closed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has renewed an appeal for the release of the journalist Hada, a Mongolian political prisoner since 1995, whose family says he has recently been maltreated, and also condemned the denial of free expression online to the Mongolian minority.

"The slogan for the Beijing Olympics, 'One World, One Dream', leaves a bitter taste for China's minorities," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Despite denials by the authorities, human rights violations are frequent against inhabitants of the occupied regions, Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia."

Hada, editor of "The Voice of the Southern Mongolia", is regularly ill-treated in Chifeng jail where he is serving a 15-year prison sentence. His wife, Xinna, recently exposed the abuse which has been inflicted on him and said that his health was deteriorating as a result.

The Governor of Inner Mongolia, Yang Jing, denied the accusations when questioned by Reuters news agency on 25 July 2007. He rejected the possibility of Hada being released on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. "He has been tried according to the law and we cannot interfere in the judicial process. China has its own laws and we act in accordance with them", he said. China, in 1988, ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

The European Parliament passed a resolution in September 1996 calling on the Chinese government to reopen the trial of Hada in the presence of international observers, a request that the Chinese authorities ignored.

As well as editing "The Voice of the Southern Mongolia", Hada was involved in the Southern Mongolian Democracy Alliance (SMDA), a human rights organisation campaigning for the rights of the minority in Inner Mongolia, which led to his sentence of 15 years for "separatism" and "espionage" in 1996.

The popular discussion forum Mongolian Youth Forum ( ) was closed by the authorities on 12 July. According to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre (SMHRIC), which contacted one of the site's administrators, Elsen, the forum was censored because it was operating without permission. According to Elsen, the real problem was linked to frequent discussions it hosted about "ethnic problems" in the Chinese province.

The discussion forum Nutuge was closed previously, in February 2004, on the orders of the Public Security Bureau after it posted a message considered to be "illegal". The forum, created in 2002, had become one of the most popular in Inner Mongolia and mainly dealt with Mongolian culture and history. It did not deal with "sensitive" political and religious questions.

Five other websites have reportedly been closed or blocked in recent months, according to the SMHRIC, for posting "separatist content" or "discussion of ethnic problems". These were: Mongolian Landscape Forum ( ), The New Tribe ( ), Children of Grassland ( ), The Home of Mongols ( ) and The Steppe ( ).

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