World leaders urged to jointly press for all charges against him to be dropped and for him to be freed
Human rights groups have today called on the Mongolian government to immediately release human rights defender Munkhbayar Chuluundorj who is serving a 10-year prison sentence on politically motivated charges related to his public criticism of the Mongolian government’s close ties with China. [Full statement text and list of signatories can be seen below]
Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj is an award-winning Mongolian journalist, poet, and human rights activist known for defending the linguistic, cultural, and historical identities of Southern Mongolians. In February 2022 he was arbitrarily arrested, in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, after raising public critique of the relationship between the Mongolian and Chinese governments and the links to a crackdown on the rights in Southern Mongolia [CH: Inner Mongolia], which China has occupied since 1949.
Togochog Enghebatu of Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said: “Munkhbayar ‘s case reminds us of that the Chinese regime is not just a colonial power that occupies once independent Southern Mongolia, Tibet, and East Turkistan, but also a global hegemon that threatens its sovereign neighbors and the wider free and democratic world.”
Aurora Chang, International Tibet Network, said: “Munkhbayar’s unjust conviction and detainment is one in a long line of examples of the overreach of Beijing’s power outside of its borders, and the Chinese Communist Party’s disregard for the sovereignty of other countries and international law. Human rights activists, lawyers, and writers from all across the world are calling for Munkhbayar’s release, and it is imperative that the Mongolian authorities listen to them now in the interest of protecting democracy and freedom of expression.”
Talita Pessoa, Program Director, PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center, said: “The unjust conviction of Munkhbayar Chuluundorj is a worrisome example of the use of national security laws to criminalize human rights defenders. The charges and his subsequent conviction have effectively silenced Munkhbayar Chuluundorj’s criticism of both the Mongolian and Chinese governments’ policies around the culture and language of ethnic Mongolians living in China’s Inner Mongolia. It’s noteworthy that his trial happened amid China’s new public education policies to remove Mongolian language instruction for various key subjects in the region. We urge the Mongolian authorities to respect their citizens’ fundamental right of freedom of expression, calling for the conviction to be voided and for Chuluundorj’s immediate release.”
Hidetoshi Ishii of Free Tibet Fukuoka said: “We cannot overlook the fact that an authoritarian country is repainting democratic countries. Rescuing Munkhbayar isn’t just about helping one individual, it’s about protecting democracy.”
FULL STATEMENT TEXT:
We urge the Mongolian government to immediately release Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj who was arbitrarily arrested in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, by the General Intelligence Agency (GIA) of Mongolia on February 17, 2022.
Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj is an award-winning Mongolian journalist, poet, and human rights activist known for defending the linguistic, cultural, and historical identities of Southern Mongolians.
Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj was detained in Ulaanbaatar on politically motivated charges related to his public criticism of the Mongolian government’s close ties with China and the shrinking rights in Southern Mongolia [CH: Inner Mongolia], which China has occupied since 1949. His arrest and sentencing took place amid China’s increasingly severe policies in Southern Mongolia that aim to remove learning in the Mongolian language for several key subjects. These restrictive policies are similar to those rolled out by Chinese authorities in Tibet and East Turkistan [CH: Xinjiang], and recent moves to replace Cantonese education in Hong Kong with Mandarin.
Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj was sentenced to 10 years in prison on June 28, 2022, for “collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency” against the People’s Republic of China. On December 21, 2022, the Supreme Court of Mongolia heard his appeal and upheld the lower court’s original decision. There is no evidence linking Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj to the charge and his lawyer, Ms. Baasan Geleg, has dismissed the national security charge against him as entirely baseless.
In September 2022 two handwritten letters from Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj – penned in the detention center in June 2022 – were received by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. In the letters, he pleaded his innocence and detailed how he believed the evidence against him had been fabricated in relation to his work to better the conditions of Mongolians.
Land-locked Mongolia is highly dependent on China for imports and there has been an increase in economic influence, including vast loans via Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, in recent years that have pushed Mongolia into major indebtedness to China. These debts are further exacerbated by a program of cultural propaganda such as the establishment of Confucius Institutes, television and radio broadcasts, and cultural centers.
Growing concern about the Mongolian state’s harassment, intimidation, and reprisals against human rights defenders is growing. In October 2022, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights raised the issue of human rights defenders and recommended Mongolia put in place protection safeguards and ‘urgently investigate cases in which human rights defenders are criminalized’. Later in the same month, the Japanese “Parliamentary Support Group for Southern Mongolia” published a statement regarding the sentence of Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj.
Rights groups are calling on like-minded governments – both jointly and bi-laterally – and the UN Human Rights Council to call for the immediate release of Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj.
Togochog Enghebatu, President, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center
Hidetoshi Ishii, Senior Advisor, Free Tibet Fukuoka
Elbegdorj Tsakhyiagiin, President of World Mongol Federation and former President of Mongolia
Dolkun Isa, President, World Uyghur Congress
Anna Kwok, Executive Director, Hong Kong Democracy Council
Mandie McKeown, Executive Director, International Tibet Network
Talita Pessoa, Program Director, PEN America
Dr. Sanj Altan, President, Mongol American Cultural Association
Dr. Yang Jianli, President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China
Merce Monje Cano, Executive Director, Unrepresented Nations, and Peoples Organization
On behalf of the following global rights groups:
Afghanistan Cinema Club
Over 100 global rights groups call for the immediate release of Mongolian writer and activist Munkhbayar Chuluundorj