1998 March for Peace and Independence

by M. Altanbat

Of the Inner Mongolian People's Party

The peace march for Tibetan Independence began on March 10, 1998, in Portland, Oregon. I am filing this report as my son, Tugsbayar and I are arriving on the US-Canada border, at the town of Blaine, Washington, on April 20, 1998.

Together with Americans, Tibetans and Canadians, we are happy to be walking for the freedom and independence of Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Eastern Turkistan. I am happy to represent the 6 million Southern Mongols, suffering under the brutal repression of the Communist Party of China. Throughout the past 40 days, I spoke out to the American people we met on our walk, about the bitter and miserable life of the Inner Mongols. I am deeply conscious of the responsibility I bear, in calling attention to the plight of the Inner Mongols, as we approach the new millennium.

During the past 40 days, we walked through numerous towns and cities, crossed over majestic mountains, vast plains, magnificent rivers. I have been awed by the beauty of this part of the great country of the United States of America.

This area is covered with a dense forest of green pines, cedar, red smoky ash, white blossom trees and many others with a wide variety of colors. I am impressed with how highly developed, powerful and rich in natural resources the United States is. There is a Mongolian proverb : "One look is worth a hundred words". This one look with the broad highways, the tall buildings, the bridges, the homes along the way have provided me with an astounding view of America.

But besides the great natural beauty of the United States, I have also seen the people. I've seen the intelligentsia, the common workers and farmers, all living in harmony. I saw the people of the United States, from the lowest, all the way to the President, enjoying equal rights before the Constitution of the United States. On this march, I have come to feel very deeply, that the American people sincerely love their freedom, that they oppose oppression and totalitarianism in any form, and Democracy is in them to the very core of their being. This is perhaps more beautiful to me than their glorious outdoors even.

From Portland, Oregon to Blaine, Washington, people came to greet and congratulate us and to express their strong support for the cause of the Tibetans, the Inner Mongols and the Eastern Turkistanis. They joined us in condemning the genocidal policies of the Chinese government. All along the march, I was invited by colleges and universities to come and speak about the social and political conditions in Inner Mongolia. On these occasions, I spoke about the past 50 years of Chinese occupation of my homeland. The loss of life, the ethnic genocide, the torture, the environmental devastation of the steppes, the population transfer of million of Chinese peasants into Inner Mongolia and the nuclear wastes being dumped in our lands. At the end of my speech, I always ended with the statement that "We are the descendants, the sons and daughters of Chinggis Qan, and despite the severe repression, the Inner Mongolian people will never surrender to the Chinese occupiers." I am reminded of the audience at the University of Washington, who shouted back "Okay, Chinggis Qan". I also spoke about our unique culture, our history and our tradition of ruling ourselves, having our own language and literature, our own government and a nomadic lifestyle, completely different from the sedentary Chinese. I never failed to speak about the continuing struggle for freedom in Inner Mongolia, the formation of the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance and the Inner Mongolian People's Party. Many in the audience were not aware that the repression of the Tibetans is not unique, that it extends to the Inner Mongols and the Eastern Turkistanis. I pointed out repeatedly that the three nations together, shoulder to shoulder are engaged in the struggle to achieve freedom and independence.

Throughout the walk, I felt deeply the cordial and warm support of Americans towards our cause. At the US-Canadian border in Blaine, all the marchers came together under the Arch marking the border, and we held hands and sang the great song of hope sung by the leaders of the American civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome."

To the American people I met all along the march, I say "Thank you". To the students who came to listen to my speeches, I say "Thank you". God has given me this opportunity to represent the oppressed Mongols of Inner Mongolia on this walk. This walk has given me the renewed confidence that one day, the sun will shine on a free Tibet, a free Inner Mongolia and a free Eastern Turkistan, and we can stop singing "We Shall Overcome".