Behind the Story: Chased By the Law in Southern Mongolia
I went to this remote region to produce a documentary. I left with an advanced education in Chinese government censorship.
We’re waiting in our car in the dry afternoon heat of Southern Mongolia. Eight or so policemen are having a discussion just out of earshot. My translator Tsoguu and I have been pulled over at the city border of Ordos as we were attempting to head back to the grassland. Our destination was anywhere away from here. They take Tsoguu out of the back seat and speak procedurally to him with a faux sense of calm.
“Where are they taking you?” I ask him.
“I have no idea. Just cooperate with them,” he tells me as they guide him away.
None of the policemen are speaking Mongolian. They are all Chinese. Given the underlying cultural-political climate, this is not fundamentally surprising. As an autonomous region of China, Southern Mongolia (which the Chinese call “Inner Mongolia”) is set up with regional governments heavily manipulated by Chinese forces. Still, there is a discomfort in how noticeably the aura of a group environment changes when suddenly a different language dominates.
After an unresol…