Mr. Sodmongol (Cao Du on his Chinese passport), a representative of
the indigenous Mongolian community in China was invited to attend
the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 9th
Session at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. He was
arrested at the Beijing Capital International Airport on April 18,
2010 by the Chinese authorities as he was departing China to attend
the meeting. His whereabouts and health status remain unknown. This
is the second time the Chinese authorities have arrested Mongolian
representatives attempting to attend UNPFII. Two years ago, another
Southern (Inner) Mongolian community leader, Mr. Naranbilig was
arrested by the Chinese authorities and barred from attending the
UNPFII 7th Session. He was put under one year house arrest following
a 20 day detention.
Sodmongol was invited by the UNPFII to attend its 9th session,
taking place from April 19 to 31, 2010 at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York City. He was planning to be part of the
indigenous Mongolian delegation organized by the Southern Mongolian
Human Rights Information Center (SHMRIC). As a grantee of the United
Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations run by the United
Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR),
he was granted full travel funds to attend the PFII 9th Session. The
United States Consulate in Shenyang, China, granted him a visa to
the United States in support of his attendance to this event.
According to the last communication received by SMHIRC from
Sodmongol, he successfully completed the airport check in and
customs check at the Beijing Capital International Airport at 2:55
PM Beijing Time on April 18, and was waiting to board Continental
Airlines Flight CO88 from Beijing to Newark International Airport in
New Jersey, USA. However, according to the Continental Airlines
Beijing Branch Office, Sodmongol's airline ticket was cancelled for
an unknown reason before the flight departure at 3:45 PM, and no
further information was available.
To further investigate the case, SMHRIC contacted the Beijing
Capital International Airport Public Security Bureau and Customs
Check immediately. A customer service representative of the Customs
Check confirmed that indeed a man was arrested and was not allowed
to board the Flight CO88 while another customer representative of
the Customs Check refused to provide any further details, claiming
that this is a state secret.
SMHRIC contacted Sodmongol's wife Ms. Sun Huili. She told SMHRIC
that the local police of Chao Yang City, Liao Ning Province, raided
their house on the morning of April 19, and informed her of
Sodmongol's arrest. The police searched their house and confiscated
their personal computers, laptops, cell phones, papers and
documents. Ms. Sun Huili was warned that the punishment to her
husband will be harsher if she reveals anything about this event to
others to appeal for his release.
Sodmongol, 45 years old, is a native Mongolian born in Ongniud
Banner of Southern Mongolia. Before his arrest, he worked for the
Institute of Education of Chao Yang City, Liao Ning Province, China.
As one of the highly respected ethnic Mongolian indigenous rights
defenders and human rights activists, Sodmongol has been playing an
important role in defending ethnic Mongolians' basic human rights
and fundamental freedoms within the Chinese legal framework. As part
of his efforts for advocating freedom of speech, press and
association of the Southern Mongolians, he created and ran one of
the most popular Mongolian language internet forums called "Mongol
Yurt Association" (
) that was shutdown by the authorities several times due to
its popularity and discussions of sensitive topics.
On June 13, 2009, Sodmongol was questioned by the Chinese
authorities about his activities for allowing some sensitive topics
to be discussed on the Mongol Yurt Association Internet forum.
During the Chinese National Holiday last year, the site was
officially shutdown. Currently the site is still inaccessible.
Sodmongol was also an administrator of another popular Mongolian
forum called the Mongol People Chat Room that was also shutdown by
the Chinese authorities during last year's Chinese National Holiday.
As gathering places of ethnic Mongolian intellectuals and students,
these Internet sites have been very active in advocating the
promotion and protection of ethnic Mongolian peoples' rights to
practice their culture, language and tradition, and to maintain
their distinct identity.
Along with other members of the Mongol Yurt Association and Mongol
People Chat Room, Sodmongol also organized a number of workshops,
seminars and charity events to educate the indigenous Mongolians how
to protect their legal rights that are routinely violated by the
Government, government agencies and large companies. One such event
was a simultaneous workshop which took place in all major cities of
Southern Mongolia during China's Celebration of the Establishment of
Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in May 2009, promoting Mongolian
language education and usage as mandated in the "Inner Mongolia
Autonomous Region Regulation on the Work of Mongolian Language and
Literatures". More than 20,000 fliers were distributed among the
Mongolian communities across the region to encourage all Mongolian
people to protect their legal right to use the Mongolian language in
all parts of their social life in the Autonomous Region.
Supporting rural Mongolian students who had dropped out of school
due to the Chinese authorities' "ecological migration" and
"urbanization" policies has been an important part of Sodmongol's
activities during the past several years. To enforce its "ecological
migration" and "urbanization" policies, the Chinese Government has
eliminated hundreds of Mongolian schools in rural Mongolian
communities, creating a school dropout rate reaching 40% in some
areas. Through charity events and other activities Sodmongol raised
funds to support hundreds of Mongolian students and encouraged them
to attend the existing few Mongolian schools in the Banner
(equivalent in county) capitals.
Since 2006, Sodmongol has organized a series of virtual gatherings,
online conferences and Internet discussions with topics related to
the issues Southern Mongolian are facing. One such example is the
Celebration of Chinggis Khaan's Birth Day on April 16 every year.
The celebration of Chinggis Khaan's birthday by the Mongolians has
been strictly prohibited by the Chinese authorities. Mongolian
students' activities are closely monitored and the gathering of
large numbers of Mongolian students is strictly prohibited on and
around this day every year. To circumvent the authorities' tight
control, Sodmongol initiated a virtual online Celebration of
Chigghis Khaan's Birthday through the Mongol People Chat Room, a
voice enabled Internet group chat room.
As a skilled and experienced computer user and web administrator,
Sodmongol offered a series of free online training and seminars to
Mongolian users on the usage of Internet and Mongolian language
software. He encouraged Mongolian Internet users to use Mongolian
language as the tool to communicate through the Internet and to get
access to accurate and reliable information. Many Southern Mongolian
Internet users even had had access to information regarding events
taking place overseas by Southern Mongolian exiles through the
Mongol Yurt Association and Mongol People Chat Room. Because of this
exchange of information, these sites were shutdown by the Chinese
authorities last October.
All of the aforementioned activities of Mr. Sodmongol are supposedly
protected as parts of the legal rights of the ethnic Mongolians that
are guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution and the Chinese Regional
Ethnic Autonomy Law. Since China voted for the adoption of the
United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),
these rights of the indigenous Mongolian peoples must be protected
by the Chinese Government in accordance with the articles of UNDRIP
as well. China's arrest of Mr. Sodmongol and other indigenous
Mongolian representatives and barring them from attending the United
Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues not only represent a
clear violation of its own laws but also pose a blatant challenge to
the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that China is bound to.