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Mongolians protest in China after herder killed

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BEIJING » The death of a Mongolian herder run over by a Chinese truck driver has touched off protests and shed light on one of China’s lesser-known ethnic flash points.

Hundreds of ethnic Mongolians took to the streets in northeast China this week demanding justice for a herder killed May 10 in a hit-and-run incident while trying to block a caravan of coal trucks from driving over fragile grasslands, a rights group said.

The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center posted photos and video of soldiers in Inner Mongolia’s Xilinhot city facing off with dozens of uniformed middle school students and others as they tried to march Monday, demanding justice for the herder, identified only as Mergen. Four protesters were detained, the New York-based group said in a statement.

Frustrations over Han Chinese migration into minority enclaves and resource exploitation have boiled over in some of China’s other regions, including Tibet and the far western region of Xinjiang. Both areas have seen anti-government protests and eruptions of deadly ethnic violence in recent years.

Inner Mongolia, a Chinese territory bordering Mongolia, has in contrast remained relatively stable, but a rush to tap the area’s coal reserves has ratcheted up tensions.

Locals Mongolians complain that Chinese miners are displacing herders, destroying grasslands and killing their livestock, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said.

An online statement last week by police in Xiwu Banner, or county, where the hit-and-run incident occurred, said Mergen was struck as he and others tried to block coal trucks from driving onto the grasslands, where they whipped up dust and created a disturbance.

Two Chinese drivers, Li Lindong and Lu Xiangdong, were detained May 11 on suspicion of drunk driving, hitting Mergen and fleeing the scene, the statement said. It wasn’t clear if the men were driving two separate trucks or were in the same vehicle.

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