Mongolian pride

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Nov 27 16:51:36 UTC 2004

>>From the NYTimes, Nov. 24, 2004

The Mongolians Are Coming to China! With Heavy Metal!

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - China built the Great Wall more than 2,000 years
ago to keep out invaders from the north. But the Chinese are having a
harder time repulsing modern interlopers like these: long-haired Mongolian
men in black, whose office dcor features a wolf pelt, a portrait of
Genghis Khan and a music store poster of Eminem. So the Chinese police got
nervous when they heard that Hurd was crossing the Gobi Desert, coming
down from Mongolia, 600 miles to the north. With their new hit CD, "I Was
Born in Mongolia," Hurd, a heavy metal, Mongolian-pride group, was coming
for a three-day tour, culminating Nov. 1 with a performance in Hohhot,
capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

"The morning we were to get on the train, the translator guy called and
said 'Your performances are cancelled,' " Damba Ganbayar, Hurd's
keyboardist and producer, said glumly as he lounged in a white plastic
chair. "He said, 'I will call with details.' I never got the details."

The details, according to reports from Hohhot, were that riot policemen
and trucks surrounded the college campus where the group was to play. They
checked identity cards, detained four people overnight and dispersed about
2,000 frustrated concertgoers into the autumn night.

In the next several days, the Chinese authorities shut down three
Mongolian-language chat forums, according to the Southern Mongolia Human
Rights Information Center, a New York-based group that tracks "Chinese
colonialism" in what some call the southern end of Greater Mongolia.
"Banned in Hohhot" may not have an epic ring to it, but it is a sign of
the times.

With reports of local protests almost daily fare in China, the authorities
are increasingly nervous also about ethnic minorities. In late October,
several days of fighting erupted between Hui Muslims and Han Chinese -
China's dominant ethnic group - in central Henan Province after a traffic
accident. During the 1960's, the Chinese-Soviet split kept Mongolia, a
Soviet satellite nation, apart from China's Inner Mongolia. Today, the
Chinese region is home to four million ethnic Mongolians, almost double
the 2.5 million in the country of Mongolia. But Chinese migration to Inner
Mongolia over the years has left the ethnic Mongolians there vastly
outnumbered by 18 million Han Chinese.

In recent years, barriers have gone down between those two Mongolias as
China has become its northern neighbor's largest trading partner and
foreign investor. With Inner Mongolia's economy growing by 22 percent
during the first nine months of this year, officials in the two Mongolias
agreed in October to open a free-trade zone where the Trans-Mongolian
Railway crosses into China. On the cultural front, music groups from here
often appear on Inner Mongolia's Mongolian-language channel. Hurd, which
means speed, has done three concert tours in Inner Mongolia since 2000. It
claims to be the most popular rock group for Mongolians on both sides of
the border.

"In 2000, it was very Soviet-style, with lots of policemen around with
flashlights, very disciplined concerts," Mr. Damba Ganbayar recalled.
"Later, it became more relaxed, like normal rock concerts." "Even so, they
advised us not to say, 'We Mongolians are all together!' or 'All
Mongolians rise up and shout!' " the keyboardist continued. "People would
shout, 'Genghis!' But it was nothing political."

But on later visits south of the border, he noticed a growth in Mongol
pride. "More and more the young people say, 'We want to keep the Mongolian
language and the traditions,' " he said. "I met a guy with a Mongolian
name, and he shouted, 'I am Mongolian!' - in Chinese. I met many like

Encounters between Mongolians and Inner Mongolians are a bit like
encounters between Mexicans and New Mexicans. Many Mongols here say they
consider Inner Mongolians to be more Chinese than Mongolian. When people
here travel south, they do not say they are going to Inner Mongolia, but
to China. "We don't have an Inner Mongolian problem," a Chinese diplomat
in the region said in an interview. "Most of the Inner Mongolian
population has been 'Han-ized.' They speak Chinese, think like Chinese.
Hohhot is like any other Chinese city."

Munh-Orgil Tsend, Mongolia's foreign minister, said in an interview, "For
us, Inner Mongolia is a province of China that happens to have ethnic
brother on other side of the border." On the northern side of the border,
Hurd's nationalist identity has grown over the last two years, a time when
the group did not record any new songs.

"Hurd's national pride and love of homeland takes the ethos of Bruce
Springsteen's 'Born in the U.S.A.' to a new level," said Layton Croft, an
American foundation representative and musician here, who attended one of
their concerts in October. "There is a loyal, mostly rural, Mongolian fan
base for such music."

Hurd's Mongol nationalism is aimed at that audience: young Mongolians who
now leave the country for work, the men in construction in South Korea,
the women as 'hostesses' in Macao.

But the "I Was Born in Mongolia" CD, with its paeans to a "land of great
legendary heroes," came out here as ethnic Mongolians in China were
discovering that a Han Chinese-owned company was taking over
administration of the Genghis Khan Mausoleum, the region's biggest tourist
money-maker. Entrusted to the care of the Darhad Mongolian tribe since
1696, this shrine holds relics of the great conqueror, including his
saddle and his black bow.

The actual burial place of Genghis Khan, who died in 1227, is not known,
and has been the object of several archeological expeditions. But
construction of a new "mausoleum" by Dong Lian, the Chinese company,
prompted protests by Mongolians who see the move as another power grab by
Chinese settlers.

>>From the Chinese side, "anything associated with nationalism, separatism,
political rights, they want to suppress it," said an Inner Mongolian
trader here who asked not to be identified.

In the best-known case, a bookstore owner who goes by one name, Hada, is
serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted of separatism in 1996.

But with the canceling of concerts by Hurd and Horda, an Inner Mongolian
band, some fear new restraints on Mongolian cultural expression.

"The government is shutting down a lot of music shops, confiscating a lot
of music tapes," said Enhebatu Togochog, who runs the Southern Mongolian
information center in New York. "They say they are purifying the cultural

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list