The closure on 26 September of www.ehoron.com and www.monhgal.com, two websites based in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, for allegedly hosting “separatist” content is the result of the Chinese government’s determination to gag cultural minorities, Reporters Without Borders said today.
“Freedom of expression is still more restricted for the Mongols, Tibetans and Uighurs than for the rest of the Chinese population,” the press freedom organisation said. “These minorities are censored as soon as they express themselves on issues even remotely linked to politics. As everywhere in China, websites and local forums are carefully monitored and banned as soon as they show signs of dissent.”
Created in September 2004 by Mongolian students, the www.ehoron.com website was a platform of expression for about 1,300 Mongolian students who were “Internet refugees” from www.nutuge.com, a site that was closed in March 2004. Ehoron.com, which included a discussion forum, covered a range of subjects affecting Inner Mongolia without touching on human rights, politics or religion.
The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre (whose site cannot be accessed from within China) quoted the forum’s administrations as saying the reason given by the local authorities for closing their site was the “separatist” content that was being posted, apparently a reference to messages that had appeared in the forum criticising a Chinese TV cartoon that showed Genghis Khan as a mouse with a pig’s snout.
The other site, www.monhgal.com, is the website of the law firm Monhgal. It was closed for encouraging Internet users to write to the Chinese authorities to protest against the same cartoon and for asking them to collect evidence for a lawsuit against its producer and distributor. The site, which offers legal assistance to Inner Mongolian residents who have any kind of legal conflict with the state, ceased to be accessible on 26 September. An Internet user trying to access the site was redirected to the Chinese information ministry’s site. The Monghal site was available again yesterday but those in charge have had to undertake “not to post any more separatist-type information.”
The Mongols are not the only minority subject to censorship by Beijing. The government also blocks access to many sites operated by members of Xinjiang province’s Uighur minority such as www.uhrp.org and www.uyghuramerican.org.