China frees Mongol dissident it has held since 1996

Reuters, BEIJING

Wed, Dec 10, 2014 - Page 6

China has freed one of its longest-serving political prisoners, the ethnic Mongol dissident Hada, who has spent much of the last two decades behind bars, his uncle said yesterday.

Beijing fears ethnic unrest in strategic border areas and keeps a tight rein on Inner Mongolia, just as it does on Tibet and Xinjiang, even though the region is suppposed to have a large measure of autonomy.

“He’s not in good health,” the dissident’s uncle, Haschuluu, said, adding that Hada’s younger brother had told him of the release, which took place yesterday morning in the Inner Mongolian capital of Hohhot.

He declined further comment.

Many Mongols in China go by just one name.

Hada was tried behind closed doors in 1996 and jailed for 15 years for separatism, spying and supporting the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, which sought greater rights for China’s ethnic Mongols. He says the charges were trumped up.

After being released in December 2010, he had to serve a separate sentence of four years of “deprivation of political rights,” mostly in an illegal detention center in the north of Inner Mongolia, his family says.

Hada’s wife Xinna, who lives in Hohhot, and their son, Uiles, have also been in and out of detention over the past few years.

Amnesty International considered Hada a prisoner of conscience and has expressed fears about his well-being, as have the US and EU.

While Hada’s release is a positive sign, he is likely to remain closely watched, said Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong.