On October 21, following a three-day protest, Mongolian herders gathered near the site of a pig farm being constructed by China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO Group) and called on the Chinese government to halt the project. The protest occurred in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of northeast China.

The group of more than 100 local Mongolians alleged that the land for the site had been sold to COFCO without the local herders’ free, prior and informed consent, according to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC).

Protests and violence near pig farm site

The protest started on October 17, when nearly 200 local Mongolian herders marched toward the COFCO pig farm construction site and blocked the road. The local authorities dispatched a dozen police vehicles with more than 400 riot police to put down the protest. Many were beaten, and at least three herders were arrested and detained, according to SMHRIC.

“Not only is this a flagrant denial of our traditional pastoralist way of life,” a herder named Sarnaa told SMHRIC, “but also this will bring a further destruction to the already devastated natural environment.”

The Mongolian herders came from the Sandag Gachaa (a Gachaa consists of several villages) of Hailas township located in eastern Inner Mongolia’s Ongniud Banner, a geographic division.

Background to Mongolian herders' protest

According to a written statement from the affected herders in Sandag Gachaa to the Ongniud Banner People’s Government, nearly 1,860 hectares (4,600 acres) of quality grazing land has been carved out of the Sandag Mongolian communities by state-run corporations since the 1950s. In 2014, the Hailas Township government sold the land to COFCO. However the herders contend that the sale was illegitimate and that they had not consented to the purchase, according to SMHRIC.

Video clips and pictures SMHRIC obtained from the local herders show the herders holding signs reading “Our land, our territory, inherited from our ancestors, must be inherited to our children and grandchildren!” and “We Mongolians are the strongest when we unite together!”

The protestors repeatedly chanted, “Never give up an inch of our land even if God begs for it!” a well-known motto generally credited to the Mongolian national hero Galdan Boshogt.