China's widest province on the north edge of China, abutting Russia and Mongolia. Population of 24 million of which 4 million are Mongol*. Han Chinese are 90% of the population, with a number of other minority groups; Daur, Oroqen, Ewenki, Hui, Korean and Manchu. It is the third largest province with a diverse geography with vast grasslands, forests and deserts.|
* More than the total population of Mongolia (3 million)!
When the Manchu Dynasty was overthrown in 1911, the Outer Mongolians-the Khalkas- declared themselves independent with the support of Russia. The Tsar forced the Chinese to recognize Outer Mongolia's quasi-independence but agreed that Inner Mongolia would remain in the new Chinese Republic. The Kyakhta Conference of 1913-14 established the legal basis for the division of Mongolia into Mongolia (Outer Mongolia, now independent), Inner Mongolia (China) and a swath to the north by Lake Baikal (Russia).
Why relations between Mongols and Chinese are so poor? Of course the answer to this question goes a long way back in history as these two cultures, agrarian and nomadic collided, most notably at the time of Genghis Khan. But more recent events have added to the animosity and fear, and the shoe is now on the other foot, now it is the Mongols who fear the Chinese. Interestingly the Manchus, themselves a nomadic tribe that conquered China and established the non-Han Qing Dynasty, treated the Mongols as if they, the Manchu themselves were Han Chinese.
During the Cultural Revolution a bloodbath, a a pogrom really, occured, which in its scale dwarfed anything else in China. Nearly 800,000 people were imprisoned and tortured, between 23,000 and 50,000 were killed and 120,000 left permanently maimed.
'They sent work teams from Beijing made up of inspectors and interrogators. The victims were starved, then beaten and imprissoned. People said that there were seventy-two types of torture listed but the worst were committed by our own people. They burned people with pokers and cigarettes. They put the pokers up the vaginas of women and even used dynamite against a woman pregant with a "traitor".
Some people were kept in holes in the ground, handcuffed so tightly that their wrists became inflamed and paralysed. Many people had their legs broken. Almost anyone would be arrested, however poor and ignorant they were.
The events that led up to this holocaust are part of the complex and confusing history of the Cultural Revolution, but the blame falls sqarely on Mao's shoulders. He claimed that tens of thousands of Mongolians belonged to an underground party thet was plotting unification with Outer Mongolia. This party was called in Chinese Neirendang or the Inner Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, the one that had briefly existed in 1924.
The Neirendang plot was invented by Mao's secret police chief, Kang Sheng. As vindictive, cruel and parnoid as the first Ming emperor Huang Hu, Mao was determined to get rid of his former comrades. They had turned against him, blaming him for the Great Leap Forward, his insane attempt to at mass industrialization and collectivisation, which cost the lives of 20 to 30 million people.
His chief target was the then president of China, Liu Shaoqi, with whom he had worked since they were in college together. Another earmarked victim was Ulanhu, who had studied with Liu Shaoqi in Moscow.
Like other provincial govenors, Ulanhu had wielded the power of a vice regent since the Communist victory. He was the head of everything- first secretary of the Party, govenor, university president and political commisar of the regional military forces and so on. Ulanhu was also the most senior Party official from any ethnic minority with an alternate seat in the politburo.
He was opposed to the Cultural Revolution from the start. He resisted the Red Guards Beijing had dispatched to all the povincial centers to wrest power from the established party leaders.
Then in 1966 Red Guards effectively staged a putsch in Hohehote by occupying the telegraph office, railway station, the main newspaper offices, the radio station and other government buildings.
They said Ulanhu was the 'ruler of an independent kingdom' who had forced the masses to study Mongolian instead of the works of Chairman Mao, and dragged out the acting mayor whom they charged with 'frenziedly promoting revisionaism and national splittism'.
Ulanhu sent in troops loyal to him with machine guns, rockets and even artillery, who surrounded the buildings occupied by the Red Guards and forced them to surrender.
The Guards responded by demonstrating on the streets until Ulanhu ordered his troops to open fire on the massed ranks of chanting students.
This sparked off further unrest. Like other provincial leaders Ulanhu countered it by creating his own group of Red Guards so that the Inner Mongolian East Shines Red Revolutionary Rebels fought with the Third Headquarters of the Revolutionary Rebels of hohehote in pitched battles. Hundreds died.
Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai invited representatives from all the factions to meet him in Beijing but Ulanhu, supecting a plot, refused to attend. He sent a delegation instead which agreed to a temporary truce.
This lasted only two weeks and the Ulanhu rearrested all the radical students. He went on to ignor other instructions from Beijing until Mao responded by sending in the deputy commander of the Beijing garrison, General Deng Haiqing, leading detachments from the 21st Army Corps in neighboring Shaanxi Province. By April 1967 troops loyal to Mao had occupied Hohehote, declared martial law and imposed a curfew. The civil war was over, Ulanhu had lost.
He was arrested and publically accused of 'calling for the Mongols', of eulogising Genghis Khan and of planning to break away from China. Mongols were removed from all levels of government and replaced by Chinese brought in from outside the province.
Younger Mongolians formed an underground resistance and called themselves the Genghis Khan Combat Corps. many were arrested, shot and imprisoned. But the worst was yet to come.
With Ulanhu out of the way, the persecution of the Mongols could begin in earnest and the massive campaign to unearth the members of the ficitional Neirendang was launched.
It became a crime to speak Mongolian, wear Mongolian clothes, use the Mongolian script or From primary school upwards, instruction in Chinese was compulsory.
Millions of extra Chinese were settled on Mongolian land. When it was all over and Mao was dead, Ulanhu was restored to power, his sons promoted. yet few efforts were ever made to bring justice to any of those responsible for these attrocities. General Deng Haiqing was allowd to retire with honor although 10,000 signed a petition, a rare event in China, demanding that he be brought to trail. Few of those persecuted were rehabilitated and still fewer compensated for their material losses. Worse still, none of the Chinese settled on Mongolian land were returned. Population figues in China are unreliable but the number of Chinese in Inner Mongolia increased from 5 to 18 million between 1949 and 1980.
Most of the above from Jasper Becker's book The Lost Country.