Inner Mongolian People’s Party Chairman Temtsiltu Shobtsood, a long-time advocate of rights for ethnic Mongolians living in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, warned Taiwanese to be cautious when dealing with Beijing while recounting Mongolians’ struggle for freedom and human rights.
“You must be very careful when dealing with the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] regime, because it follows no moral guidelines, and if it seems that the CCP is doing something good for you, it must be doing it for a reason and when it gets what it wants, it will not hesitate to break its promises,” Shobtsood, who now lives in exile, said in a recent interview in Taipei with the Taipei Times.
“When a democracy like Taiwan deals with China, it’s like a gentleman dealing with a gangster — the gentleman will suffer in the end because he honors his word and carries moral responsibilities, while the gangster does not,” he said.
Shobtsood said that although he believes that the chances of a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan are minimal, “you’ve got to be careful because China would infiltrate Taiwan in any way it can think of — and it is willing to promise Taiwanese anything they desire [to achieve its aims].”
Shobtsood said he holds these views based on the experiences of ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia.
Although a sizable Han Chinese population has migrated to Inner Mongolia since the late 19th century, more recently the Chinese government has been actively encouraging Han Chinese to settle in Inner Mongolia, saying that the policy is aimed at helping the region.
“Right now, the Han Chinese population vastly outnumbers ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia and they [Han Chinese] control most of the region’s natural resources, largely through ownership of mines,” Shobtsood said.
There are about 20 million Han Chinese in the region, accounting for 80 percent of the population, while there are only 3 million ethnic Mongolians, he said.
“What Mongolians are facing is an issue of life and death,” Shobtsood said. “With the presence of a large Han Chinese population and government policies aimed at exploiting Mongolians, the survival of our culture is seriously threatened, while the natural environment is under attack from industrial development, mining and rapid urbanization.”
According to Shobtsood, Mongolians in the region are suffering under Chinese rule, instead of prospering as the CCP regime had promised, and it was a strong sense of this crisis that led him to devote himself to the movement for freedom and human rights for ethnic Mongolians.
“Mongolian students — mostly college students and some high-school students — across Inner Mongolia rose up in demonstrations against a policy announcement by Beijing to move more Han Chinese into the region in 1981,” Shobtsood said. “I was a student at Inner Mongolia University at the time and I didn’t hesitate to join the protest and later I became the spokesman for the student movement.”
The students went on strike for 28 days and protests across Inner Mongolia continued for three months.
“The Chinese government originally planned to crack down on the student protests, but it didn’t because the movement had broad support among ethnic Mongolians. Even some ethnic Mongolian CCP members voiced their support [for the students] in public or in private,” he said.
“However, after finishing school, I couldn’t get a job due to my participation in the student movement. At that time, you couldn’t look for your own job, but had to wait for the government to assign one to you,” he added.
Unable to gain regular employment, Shobtsood worked as a part-time teacher and ran a bookstore, while also spreading his political ideas and taking part in underground organizations.
Eventually, he escaped to Germany, where he sought asylum in 1991 after learning that the Chinese government was going to arrest him on a charge of inciting students against the government.
Shobtsood said that while he was living in Inner Mongolia, and for the first few years after he arrived in Germany, he dreamed of a Mongolian state that consisted of Inner Mongolia, the independent nation of Mongolia and Mongolian republics in Russia. However, in recent years, he has turned to what he considers a more realistic solution to the Mongolian issue.
“A more realistic option for the future relationship between Inner Mongolia and China would be a confederation,” Shobtsood said. “Don’t get me wrong, I still hope that Inner Mongolia can become fully independent, but that goal may have to be left to future generations.”
Shobtsood said independence may not be achievable now because there are already 20 million Han Chinese living in Inner Mongolia.
“We cannot kick them out. Just because the Chinese government exploited Mongolians doesn’t mean that we Mongolians should do the same to the Han Chinese. We have to respect them,” he said. “We protest China’s violation of Mongolians’ human rights, so we should not violate the rights of Han Chinese in Inner Mongolia.”
Shobtsood said that to achieve unification of all Mongolian regions, ethnic Mongolians would have to be prepared to go to war with Russia and China at the same time, adding: “I don’t like wars.”
“The most important guidelines in my mind are peace and the protection of human rights,” he said. “A political leader may be prepared to sacrifice himself or herself, but he or she should not be prepared to sacrifice others. It’s not what a responsible politician should do.”
Shobtsood said that a precondition for the creation of an Inner Mongolia-China confederation is the democratization of China, adding that he believes that China will eventually become democratized if it continues to open up economically.
“Of course, a democratic China may not be willing to stop exploiting Mongolians in Inner Mongolia, but there is no doubt that China is becoming more integrated into the international community. If and when it becomes a democracy, other countries would not just sit by and watch Beijing do whatever it wants to minorities,” Shobtsood said.
Holding onto his hopes for Inner Mongolia’s future, Shobtsood said that he also has hope for Taiwan after speaking with Taiwanese from across the nation during his stay.
“China is certainly ambitious regarding Taiwan, but most Taiwanese I talked to are aware of this, and most importantly, all Taiwanese — including those descendants of Mainland Chinese who left China since 1949 — whom I’ve met identified themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese,” Shobtsood said. “It’s important to know who you are.”