Mongolia Pardons American, 2 Filipinos in Tax Case

Mongolia's president on Thursday pardoned an American mining executive and two Filipinos sentenced to prison for tax evasion, in a case that raised questions about the Asian nation's reputation as an investment destination.
A statement from Elbegdorj Tsakhia's office said Justin Kapla, Hillarion Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal David would have the rest of their sentences of five to six years commuted.
Kapla is president and executive director of SouthGobi Sands LLC, a Mongolian mining company, while Cajucom and David were financial experts with the firm. All three were convicted and sentenced last month following a three-year investigation.
Kapla's father, a resident of Forest Lake, Minnesota, had lobbied the state's senatorial delegation for assistance with the case.
A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia's capital Ulan Batar said it appreciated the president's action and that it understood the three were now free to leave Mongolia.
"The business community has made clear to us that this case negatively affects its assessment of Mongolia as a destination for foreign direct investment," the statement said. "We hope that in the future, the Mongolian authorities will conduct such cases through a fair and transparent process, in full accordance with Mongolian law."
Mining-dependent Mongolia badly needs foreign direct investment in the face of a deteriorating economic downturn.
Despite the pardons, Elbegdorj's office said SouthGobi Sands would be held liable for tax due.
Legal advisor Unurbayar Chadraabal said the decision to pardon the three was taken out of consideration of Mongolia's international relations and economic needs, as well as flaws in the legal system.
Elbegdorj himself tweeted that he had wrestled with the decision on whether or not to issue the pardons.
"Shall I think about Mongolia or think about myself? I love Mongolia," he wrote.

U.S Embassy in Ulaanbaatar issues Press Release on U.S. Citizen Justin Kaplas’ Pardoning

Public Affairs Section
U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar 7007-6001
We have seen the reports that on February 26th, 2015, President Elbegdorj issued an official pardon to the three defendants in the South Gobi Sands trial, including American citizen Justin Kapla.  We appreciate President Elbegdorj’s action.
Mr. Kapla’s lawyers have confirmed that he has been released from detention.  We understand that resolution of this case also lifts the exit ban that was imposed on Mr. Kapla.  We are pleased that he is now free to return to the United States, if he chooses.
Mr. Kapla’s case lasted nearly three years.  The trial proceedings, as well as his subsequent detention, in addition to the prolonged exit ban, caused enormous hardship for Mr. Kapla.  The U.S. Embassy closely monitored the case and provided all appropriate consular assistance.
The business community has made clear to us that this case negatively affects its assessment of Mongolia as a destination for foreign direct investment.  We hope that in the future, the Mongolian authorities will conduct such cases through a fair and transparent process, in full accordance with Mongolian law.


Mongolia pardons foreign businessmen

Mongolia's president has pardoned one US and two Filipino former mining executives jailed for tax evasion in a case that had damaged the resource-rich nation's reputation among overseas investors.
The decree pardoning the trio was announced in a statement on President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj's website, saying he made the decision in accordance with his "constitutional rights".
Mr Elbegdorj, who is trying to encourage overseas investment in the vital but troubled mining sector, called his decision "difficult" in a tweet, adding that he did it out of his love for Mongolia.
US citizen Justin Kapla and Filipinos Hilarion Cajucom and Cristobal David were each sentenced to more than five years late last month and incarcerated in a maximum-security prison.
The charges stemmed from a 2011 tax dispute with their former employer, coal miner SouthGobi Sands, that dragged on for years before the three were indicted in 2014.
The firm's parent company SouthGobi Resources is listed in Toronto and Hong Kong. It was formerly controlled by one of British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto's subsidiaries, which has announced the sale of its shares to a Chinese firm.
Sprawling and sparsely-populated Mongolia enjoyed world-leading economic growth in recent years - peaking at 17.5 per cent in 2011 - on the back of a minerals boom exemplified by the giant copper and gold Oyu Tolgoi mine, operated by Rio Tinto.
But that expansion has slumped to troubling levels, as rising resource nationalism, a global resources bust and an increasingly stringent investment environment led many foreign firms to abandon the country, and the three foreigners' jailing sent a chill through potential investors.
Foreign direct investment into Mongolia dropped 74 per cent last year.
The US embassy in Ulan Bator welcomed the pardon.
"We appreciate President Elbegdorj's action," it said in a statement, adding that it had confirmed Kapla had been released and a ban on him leaving the country had been lifted.
But it warned that the case had damaged Mongolia's reputation among investors.
"The business community has made clear to us that this case negatively affects its assessment of Mongolia as a destination for foreign direct investment," it said.


Mongolia pardons three foreigners accused of tax evasion

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Thursday pardoned three former foreign employees of coal miner SouthGobi Resources Ltd who were sentenced to more than five years each in prison in January.
Mongolia's sentencing of American citizen Justin Kapla and Filipinos Hilarion Cajucom Jr and Cristobal David had raised concern among foreign workers in Mongolia that they may be targeted by the government.
A court in January found the three former SouthGobi employees guilty of tax evasion and levied a fine of 35 billion tugrik ($18 million) on Toronto-listed SouthGobi in a case that had been going on for three years.
Travel bans during the investigations had kept the convicted men in Mongolia since May 2012.
A statement from President Elbegdorj posted on his official web site on Thursday said the three had been pardoned and released from detention.
Perceived resource nationalism and disputes over the country's largest mines have slowed developments in the mining sector, which is key to the country's economy, and led to a 74 percent drop in foreign investment last year.
The case began after Mongolian authorities raided the offices of SouthGobi Resources' mining unit, SouthGobi Sands, in May 2012. SouthGobi mines the Ovoot Tolgoi coal deposit in the Gobi desert, 40 km (25 miles) from the Chinese border.
The raid followed SouthGobi Resources' acceptance of an offer from Aluminum Corp ofChina Ltd to buy a majority stake. Mongolia blocked the deal as the government was worried about the prospect of a Chinese state-owned company taking control of the mine.
The U.S. embassy, which had raised concerns about "interpretation problems" at the trial, said Kapla was now free to return to the United States.
"The business community has made clear to us that this case negatively affects its assessment of Mongolia as a destination for foreign direct investment," the embassy said in a statement.
"We hope that in the future, the Mongolian authorities will conduct such cases through a fair and transparent process, in full accordance with Mongolian law."


Mongolia to send coal through N. Korean port

Mongolia will ship 25,000 tons of coal to North Korea’s Rajin port this year as part of a trial export project, the chairman of the Mongolian Railroad Authority said.
Mongolia has a thriving coal industry, but its lack of coastline and undeveloped rail infrastructure limit its export options. North Korea’s Rajin port in the country’s far northeast was recently upgraded to handle larger volumes of coal exports, as part of a Russian-backed infrastructure project.
North Korea has already shown interest in having Rajin as a hub for non-DPRK exports, last year partaking in a trilateral project that saw Russian coal shipped to South Korea via the North.
“There are no technical problems with delivering coal to North Korea, and we are seeking ways to deliver coals through trans-Siberian railway to Rajin,” the Mongolian Railway Authority’s chairman said in comments carried by the Korean Broadcasting System.
According to the report, Mongolia is also investigating how to deliver other metals such as copper and gold, and will consider the profitability of doing so.
This announcement comes just as North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is wrapping up an official visit to Mongolia. During the trip the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and finalized agreements on numerous forms of cooperation.
During the trip Ri met with Mongolia President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg, former U.S. State Department Foreign Service officer Alicia Campi told NK News.
“In addition to his meeting with the Mongolian Foreign Minister Purevsuren, his meeting with Mrs. Burmaa, minister of food and agriculture, is key because of food cooperation,” Campi added.
Last year, Mongolia exported more than 22 million tons of coal, mostly to China. Mongolian coking coal is favored in the region as it is significantly discounted when compared to global prices.
North Korea itself also has relatively large coal exports, which are mostly bound for China or Russia. Coal shipments from North Korea jumped rapidly at the end of the last decade, and are currently the most significant DPRK export, generating approximately $1 billion a year.


Kapla and Mongolia: Whose game is this case that has violated human rights?

By G.Zandanshatar,
former Member of the Mongolian Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lately, websites have been screaming loudly that freedom and human rights are being violated in Mongolia for both foreigners and local people. Those who run businesses are especially concerned, and live and work in constant fear.
It is accurate to say that present-day Mongolia has turned into a real nightmare for foreign investors. Cases are sensationalized, regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator is guilty or not. When cases involve politicians or businessmen, they continue until the accused are forced to their knees for the alleged crimes.
In Mongolia, we have an old saying about the sanctity of reputation that has seemingly been forgotten: “Break my bones instead of my reputation.” Since 2005, there have been numerous cases when peoples’ reputations have been insulted and assaulted. The system does not adjudicate or resolve cases according to the rule of law or well-established procedures, but rather through unsubstantiated, spurious, and unethical allegations that have polluted Mongolian society. And it doesn’t stop there.
The assault on reputations that is characterized by false accusations is expanding and becoming evermore pervasive, thus creating a huge obstacle to our economy’s development and growth. It is unfortunate that the authorities are stirring up this circumstance, rather than seeking understanding, and taking firm action to combat misinformation and promote transparency and the rule of law.
One of the classic examples is the court verdict recently rendered on the three former managers of SouthGobi Sands (SGS), which has been the object of sensational international news. If it is true that the three who have been accused are proven to have really committed tax evasion for their employer, SGS, then they should be punished according to the laws and procedures of Mongolia. No one would argue with this.
But the case is not clear-cut or definitive. Doubt hangs behind the allegations because it is very unclear what kind of reasons or motivation are hiding behind the accusation. The ex-managers of SouthGobi Sands have been sentenced to long prison terms by the criminal court, which makes everyone, foreign and domestic, worried. Foreign experts, including the U.S. embassy, believes that this case has violated the three men’s human rights, and consequently, the case has been covered actively by U.S. media.
A contributor to stated, “Rather than symbolizing due process in an emerging democracy, the trial’s numerous irregularities have raised fears that a country struggling with a resource curse has further dulled its economic prospects.” Bloomberg Business quotes Chuluunbat Ochirbat, an economic advisor to PM Saikhanbileg as saying, “It is an unusual practice in Mongolia that tax and other disputes are classified as criminal cases,” and Dale Choi, founder of Independent Mongolia Metals & Mining Research in Ulaanbaatar, adds, “It would create very negative publicity. Foreign investors and executives would be scared of signing documents in Mongolia.”, in an article entitled “Mongolian verdict sends chill through mining community,” comments that if the court decision is not reversed, SouthGobi will be bankrupted.
This is a small sample of the many stories that have appeared in U.S.and international media over the past several weeks regarding the court sentences of U.S. citizen Justin Kapla and Philippine citizens Hilarion V. Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal G. David.
If we look briefly at this sensational international case, three ex-employees of the foreign-invested company SouthGobi Sands have been sentenced to prison. When, at the outset, the tax department detected a potential violation, they should have had independent experts prepare reports and statements in conjunction with the prosecutors and police overseeing the case. But the Ministry of Finance prepared the reports itself, without expert review.
In addition, the ministry’s subsequent inspections only fueled exaggerated reports, instead of inviting independent experts to prepare their own report, affirming or rejecting the legitimacy of the tax inspectors findings. The foreign-invested SouthGobi had an international audit organization inspect and prepare independent reports, but these were ignored by the Mongolian court.
Furthermore, the prosecutor initially requested that the three only pay a penalty, but later added the much stiffer request for prison terms. What attracts our attention most is the definition of the case as a criminal case, not a civil case. It is also puzzling that officials from the tax department were not present at the trial, and that the case had been returned twice because of insufficient evidence.
Justin Kapla had worked for SouthGobi for only six months at the time of the trial, though the tax evasion case had been ongoing for five years. It is not very clear exactly which laws and rules are served in Mongolia. Obviously, we know that telephone justice dominates in our country.
In the end, the three foreign citizens who were convicted were the hired employees of SouthGobi. It is very unfair and unjust that the company owners and directors escaped prosecution for tax evasion, if indeed it is true and proven. The owners and directors should be held responsible if there is evidence of wrong-doing, instead of sentencing ex-officers employed for only six months to one year.
The three are imprisoned in a foreign country, accused of evading 6.8 billion USD in taxes. In court, they asked, “Did we really evade taxes and hide an amount of money that is equal to Mongolia’s GDP?” These sound like the words of a desperate person, but they highlight the irresponsibility of our country’s courts and monitoring organizations.
The Mongolian authorities also drew a nonsensical and misleading parallel with the United States, arguing that if the same fraction of GDP was embezzled in the U.S., each politician would have 2.2 billion USD.
U.S. citizen Justin Kapla filed a complaint with the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights last summer. Since then, he has noted repeatedly that his treatment and the irresponsible court decision will negatively affect foreign investment in Mongolia. If this negative news and reports continue to spread in international media, the reputation and credibility of the Mongolian courts will be further comprised, and fears will be fueled among people whose trust Mongolia’s needs.
Several years ago, there was a case involving a Japanese investor who was sentenced to prison for drug abuse. He was ultimately released, but only after having to address and overcome many issues. First, the court had been playing around with investors from the Republic of China, Korea, and Japan. Then, as the mining industry grew bigger, the court started harassing other large foreign investors. It is no secret that small Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese investors are commonly robbed, threatened, and slandered in cases brought on false charges.
Private and public property is sacred in countries where a market economy exists.The government, or some faction on behalf of the government, are invading private and public property and taking it for themselves. This is a very poisonous and unfortunate chain of events, that communicates to domestic and foreign investors that their businesses and investments in Mongolia are not secure or protected.
We know well that not only foreigners, but also our own people, are struggling to make a living. They are nonetheless being labeled “criminals” nationwide, and are accused of unproven crimes associated with “bribery and corruption.” What we don’t know is how many fathers, sons, mothers and daughters reputations, work, and lives are being tarnished and damaged by this variant of modern-day repression.
Arresting, imprisoning, and punishing those who create wealth has become a sadness that plagues our society. This issue has elicited much criticism from lawmakers as well. During an interview on Mongol Television and, Member of Parliament U.Enkhtuvshin said, “Rich mining and business owners are the intentional main targets. The authorities conceal the reputation of the individual, his or her family and business through paid media tools. After that, they sentence him or her to imprisonment. The public is brainwashed by the media and think, ‘Oh, as expected, this guy has been sentenced for his – you know!!! – crime’”.
These kinds of baseless accusations have sadly become commonplace in our society. My successor and now-former Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Bold once asked, “Who would want to live or work in a country where the authorities take away investors’ passports, ban them from traveling, and then arrest them for investing, after desperately inviting them to come in?” He added, “Mongolia has turned into a prison.”
In fact, the time has come for us to understand that Mongolia’s current economic difficulties derive from a crisis of politics and from our political structure. Whose game is it, squeezing the foreign investors out at the same time that the whole world is speculating that Mongolia will go bankrupt from its debt crisis? Whose strategy is it?
For the full article in its native tongue (Mongolian) visit:

Source:UB Post

Mongolia Has a Business Plan: It’s Called Singapore

(Bloomberg) -- One of the men tasked with making Mongolia attractive to investors again reckons he’ll need about six years to do the job and is looking at Singapore as a model.
Byambasaikhan Bayanjargal said he has a “mountain to climb” in cleaning house at Erdenes Mongol LLC., the umbrella company he now heads that holds the government’s stakes in businesses that control Mongolia’s deposits of copper, coal, gold and other minerals.
In an interview in the capital Ulaanbaatar on Feb. 17, Byambasaikhan said he’ll restructure Erdenes management and finances, get audits from the big four accounting firms, raise overseas capital and sell shares in some of its assets to the public.
A “Mongolian Temasek,” he said in explaining his vision for the company, a reference to Temasek Holdings Pte in Singapore that manages about S$223 billion ($164 billion) in investments on behalf of the government.
“My job is find out what the issues are and then appoint proper people to restructure these companies,” said Byambasaikhan, 37, a graduate of George Washington’s Elliott School of International Affairs. “My view is that it’s a six year job.”
Byambasaikhan was handed the task by Mongolia’s Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed who came into power last November after his predecessor was ousted in a no-confidence vote.

Ending Slump

Saikhanbileg formed a coalition government and made clear his priority was the economy and sorting out a smorgasboard of conflicts with foreign investors.
In 2011, Mongolia’s economy grew at a world-beating 17.3 percent as the resource-rich country attracted billions of dollars in investment by some of the biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto Group among them.
Economic growth slowed to 7.8 percent in 2014, a healthy clip for most countries, but the first year of single digit expansion in Mongolia since 2010. The currency, the tugrik, has slumped 42 percent over the past 24 months in tandem with a more than 80 percent plunge in foreign direct investment.
Much of what’s turned investors off Mongolia is reflected in Rio Tinto’s operations in a copper and gold mine it controls known as Oyu Tolgoi.

Legal Conflicts

Development of the mine -- the country’s single biggest investment with $6.6 billion spent and another $5.4 billion planned -- has stalled over disputes on profit sharing, taxes and management. Similar conflicts have held up development of the $4 billion Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi Desert.
Dozens of local and foreign mining companies have halted operations after more than 100 exploration licenses were revoked when the official in charge of distributing them was convicted on corruption charges and jailed.
Mongolia’s image wasn’t helped last month when a court in Ulaanbaatar jailed three foreign businessmen for as long as six years for tax evasion. Foreign and Mongolian business groups said the case was flawed as did Mongolia’s President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who said some of the judicial procedures were unacceptable.
Byambasaikhan enters this messy picture saying he’ll bring in qualified professionals to manage Erdenes Mongol, which holds the government’s portion of the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines.
It also has stakes in three other mines, Shivee Ovoo JSC coal mine, Baganuur JSC coal mine and Erdenet Mining Corporation LLC.
Byambasaikhan’s “appointment represents a drastic change in direction for Erdenes Mongol, reflective of Prime Minister Saikhanbileg’s determination to reignite the economy before next year’s elections,” Chris MacDougall, Managing Director of Mongolian Investment Banking Group LLC., said by e-mail.

‘Beyond Strained’

“At a time when relations with foreign stakeholders are beyond strained, Mr. Byambasaikhan’s true value will be demonstrated in being the nation’s most trusted intermediary,” MacDougall said.
Byambasaikhan’s career includes a six-year stint in project finance at the Asian Development Bank, which sent him to Central Asia to develop energy projects. In 2010, he moved back to Mongolia to manage the $120 million Salkhit wind farm project as the CEO of Newcom Group.
“It’s good to have someone who understands the business and who has a clear vision of what needs to be done, in particular on transparency,” said Matthieu D. Le Blan, the resident representative for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
“By appointing strong senior management those assets can show their true value. Also, it will serves as a bit of a test of transparency for a wealth fund,” Le Blan said.
Byambasaikhan said investment decisions on Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines are the two most important priorities for his country this year, adding that they “will open doors for others to do their business.”
Meantime, he’s urging investors to plant a flag in Mongolia before the next boom cycle.
“Once things take off you are better positioned than the next guy, because you know the country, you know the business and you know the people who are running the companies,” he said. “So building these relationships now make sense.”


Turquoise Hill to sell remaining stake in Mongolia's SouthGobi

Feb 24 (Reuters) - Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd on Tuesday agreed to sell the remainder of its stake in SouthGobi Resources, in an attempt to finally sever ties with the Mongolian coal miner that was once worth over C$3 billion ($2.4 billion).
Turquoise Hill, a unit of Rio Tinto, in July agreed to sell the majority of its stake in SouthGobi to Hong Kong-listed National United Resources Holdings for C$12.8 million. On Tuesday, it said Novel Sunrise Investments is buying the remainder for C$8.5 million. Both the deals are expected to close later this year.
The deals will leave Turquoise Hill walking away with C$21.3 million from the whole sale process, or less than 1 percent of the C$2.3 billion that the stake was once worth.
SouthGobi's fall from being a one-time investor darling is a stark reminder of the woes that have plagued miners, especially those that invested in riskier jurisdictions at the peak of the commodity boom.
Turquoise Hill, previously known as Ivanhoe Mines and run by well known mining financier Robert Friedland, spun out its coal assets into SouthGobi in 2006 and received a controlling stake in SouthGobi at that time.
SouthGobi's Ovoot Tolgoi mine, located 25 miles north of the Chinese border, was once billed as a cash cow. Back in 2008 Friedland dubbed the asset the "beluga caviar of coal."
Since then, Friedland and later Rio, which gained control of Turquoise Hill, have tried to monetize the stake in SouthGobi. A deal to sell a 60 percent stake in SouthGobi to Chinese aluminum giant Chalco for about C$889 million in 2012, fell apart because of obstacles put in place by the Mongolian government.
Over the last few years a slowing Chinese economy, weakening coal prices, coupled with the company's own accounting problems and funding woes have led to a dramatic collapse in SouthGobi's fortunes.
Adding to its woes, the company is now attempting to appeal a Mongolian court verdict that found three of its former employees guilty of tax evasion. The court also fined SouthGobi some C$22 million, as a civil defendant in the matter.
Shares of SouthGobi that peaked at C$21.99 a share back in June 2008, closed on Tuesday at 56 Canadian cents a share.

Democratic Values of Mongolia

By MP L.Bold
The following is the transcript of a speech given by MP L.Bold, head of the Mongolia-Germany Inter-Parliamentary Group, at the group’s 10th Assembly.
Distinguished Colleagues,
 Democracy in Mongolia had its 25th anniversary – a celebrated and retrospective whole year. Any person, or any country, is driven by reason, aspiration, and courage to proliferate its success. To do so is to be able to understand and distinguish its values and to be able to separate the primary from the supplementary. Only then, will it know what to protect, whom to defend, and when to stand true to its principles.
Notwithstanding the many accomplishments, democracy in Mongolia still faces a cycle of hardship, and political and economic adversity. Therefore, we, Mongolians, must always be conscious of our democratic values and be ready to stand up to these points.
We define our core democratic values in the following 10 points:
One. Peaceful resolution and dialogue-based solutions to conflicts have been the most defining character of Mongolian democracy.

We will forever be remembered as the country that transitioned to democracy without “a shard of broken glass or the shedding of blood”. Mongolians, through understanding and effective dialogues, more so than fate, conducted a peaceful revolution. The aging with the young, students and teachers together, journalists with their readers, protesters with police; and the choice that was made in this peaceful process was Mongolian democracy. It requires a mountain of reason to possess the ability of all parties to compromise as well as hope, to be flexible in arguments, and making the right set of decisions despite a myriad of choices. Only capable citizens can boast of such an achievement. In peaceful revolutions there are neither winners nor losers, but there is only the biggest step towards a brighter future. In retrospect, just this step alone required tens of years, jaded by bloodshed, and sometimes a whole century for many others. Mutual understanding, choices made together, and dialogue is the only solution to conflict from now on.

Two. Mongolian democracy was born and bred in Mongolia and is now a native democracy ingrained with indigenous values.
 Our country had no external influence that drove us to democracy; we did not have neighbors that we could rely on to import democracy. Despite our location in the midst of communist recess, our people chose democracy. Then we were determined to protect and raise this infant democracy born in the cold winds of winter. The democracy grew up to survive the cold winters that followed and became a resilient and adaptive native to the flatlands. Few are counted as such native democracies. Greece, France, the U.S., England, Switzerland, Norway, India, South Africa, and Poland are among those few with a history of native democracy.
Three. Mongolian democracy is the result of a courageous revolution that transformed both politics and the economy.
 Achieving only one of the two transitions demands extraordinary time or external support and aid. Mongolia achieved this historic twin transition in only a relatively short period of time, without too much international and foreign aid – rather by internal understanding, coordination, and determination. Initially, the world was skeptical of our ambitious plan for change. Therefore, the first years of society in transition was were documented much with international press coverage. But today, we look back with custodian pride at the things we have written in history. Many will ponder in the future just how our nation triumphed against many odds to achieve a united front to undergo this twin transition.
Four. The spirit of democracy in Mongolia is freedom of speech.
 Freedom of speech was the force behind the unity of the people, a guardian that cared for the fledgling democracy. To freedom of speech, we owed our peaceful revolution. It is thanks to freedom of speech that we heard and were heard, to find common ground and mutual conclusions. It was freedom of speech that enabled us to improve our society every step of the way, to learn from our mistakes, and to correct our wrongs. Advocating freedom of speech is quintessentially equal to protecting the foundations of Mongolian democracy. No words, no understanding. Without understanding, harmony and development are no more. We owe our common understanding of politics, of the economy, of religion, of political parties, and of private ownership to freedom of speech. Then the people gave birth to the most able proponents of these concepts. When the nation faces adversity, we can again and again turn to freedom of speech for understanding, for new perspectives, and for mutual solutions. We rely on freedom of speech to be reminded of our traditional values, our heritage. This is why, generation after generation, Mongolians shall always cherish freedom of speech.
Five. Democracy in Mongolia has been able to incorporate the universal values of democracy as is known to the world.
 Mongolian democracy encompasses and reflects all common international human rights: freedom, freedom of movement, and the right to private ownership. Mongolian democracy also invokes national customs, traditional knowledge, and the legacy of our past. Today, Mongolians have every condition to be protected by those internationally accepted rights and to be identified by those national characteristics. Mongolia’s political solutions are, too, embedded with these national values. Since the inception of Mongolian democracy, Mongolia has been open to the world politically, economically, and socially, making Mongolians truly global citizens.
Six. Democracy in Mongolia has been propelled by all people in their unity, acceptance, and support, and is proof of sovereignty.
 It has been proven by 20 years of research that those former Soviet countries that transitioned at around the same time, or shortly after, have not had such broad support for transition, and Mongolia ranks highly in this regard. To the question, “Do you think we made the right decision in 1990 to transition?” more than 90 percent of people polled consistently answer “yes”. An entrancing fact. Regardless of the cycles of economics, be it prosperous times or be it recessionary periods, the undivided and resilient determination to be a democratic nation is yet another vital democratic value of Mongolia, for that is the price of independence. From the beginning, Mongolians viewed democracy as the sole path to our independence, and now we view it as the proof of our independence. Our nation’s democratic principles are ingrained into our national security, and today our nation’s sovereignty is proudly established by democracy.
Seven. Mongolian democracy was a revolution pioneered by youthful leadership and characterized by immense intellectual vigor.
 A unique fact about the democratic movement was that its leadership was made up of the younger generation. English democracy was first borne by signatories of the Magna Carta, who were mostly middle-aged, rich people with certain social standing. Capitalists of similar demographics also established democracy in America. Then came the youth, with not many possessions to call their own, with neither authority nor social standing; and despite all previous cases pointing toward bloodshed and violent revolutions, they decided to lead with peaceful resolution and determination. The typical difficulty facing young revolutionaries is the perceived inability to persuade and engage the older generation. But history will regard Mongolia highly because of the support and solidarity given by the older generation to the changes desired by the youth. Prominent politicians at the time, religious citizens, pastoral nomads, the business community, and intellectuals – people of all walks of life and generations – understood one another and stood together in such a short time. This is an achievement that is a testament to the intellectually charged nature of Mongolian democracy.
Eight. Democracy in Mongolia facilitated a dynamic system that encourages the cultivation of many.
 Since the early days of democracy, many new associations, movements, and parties were instituted. The Democratic Association of Mongolia, New Progress Association, Socialist Democratic Movement, Mongolian Student Association, Movement for the Sovereign Border, People’s Business Association, Mongolian Religious Association, et cetera, are all entities that voiced their own promotion of democracy, reflecting their own unique values and visions. In today’s Mongolia, creation of nongovernmental organizations to voice issues, or coalition of parties is the norm rather than an exception that continues the dynamic tradition of democracy. In many cases pertaining to history, similar democratic movements either forced the removal of established parties or the barriers to new entry. In other words, the creation of multidimensional systems is not always wholesome nor without challenges. The uniqueness of the dynamic Mongolian system lies with maintaining the status quo without hindering the introduction of new establishments. Especially allowing the old communist party to transform, rather than completely removing it, has become a trademark, quintessentially Mongolian solution that is a valuable lesson in political studies. 
Nine. Mongolian democracy constitutes and promotes a person’s political rights, social and economic rights, and rights to freedom.
 Ever since the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, socio-economic rights and political rights have been separately constituted. Political rights include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, rights to a fair trial, and rights to an attorney, but many Asian democratic models have often neglected these because of their priority on economic development. On the other hand, social and economic rights were promoted by the Soviet Union and other socialist nations. Thus, classically modeled capitalist nations in the West have put less emphasis on the right to employment, right to study, right to healthcare, and cultural rights. Mongolians, informed of their social and economic rights and envisioning the promotion of political rights, have promulgated Mongolian democracy, thus creating a unique space that fulfills human rights and freedom. Mongolia continues to be a role model for the proponent of the United Nations’ human rights covenants.
Ten. Dissemination of information regarding Mongolian democracy was broad and swift in its reach to the people.
 Since the inception of Mongolian democracy, it has been debated, lectured, and its proponents continue to expand rapidly. In Eastern Europe, few became prominent leaders of revolution, few engaged individuals, and few sources came to be recognized, as opposed to Mongolia, where proliferation of democracy was more akin to that of the American revolution. Even now, Americans are proud to have many intellectual leaders, writers, and information venues, and the Mongolian revolution was inexplicably the same way. Journalists, lawmakers, economists, philosophers, teachers, and others were born in every corner of the nation. Society as a whole became a learning ground for new ideas, perspectives, and approaches. Learning became the new norm and people of all ages and profession had to learn anew. Through learning, these men and women transitioned. The broad participation in the process of learning continues to this day. What is truly impressive about Mongolian society is its ability to swiftly broadcast information and propagate education to others. Today, this particular ability of ours is studied by aspiring democracies. Mongolian democracy will continue to evolve and be a promoter of learning and informed decision-making in its broadest form.
Democracy is the cornerstone of social justice, existence, and independence. Nevertheless, it requires care, protection, and reason for its sustenance. Therefore, we will always be guardians and promoters of our democratic values.

Wolf in the fold

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-24 18:18:01

Film version of Wolf Totem does justice to source novel

It's fitting that Wolf Totem opened on the first day of the Year of the Sheep, as the movie chases away the frivolity of the recent New Year celebrations as ruthlessly as a pack of the titular animal tearing into a grazing herd, bringing viewers uncomfortably close to the raw harshness of existence.

The film is a Chinese-French co-production, directed by Jean Jacques Annaud, who won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1976 for his debut Black and White in Color.

The story is adapted from Chinese writer Jiang Rong's eponymous novel, and is set on the steppe of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

It follows Beijing-born Chen Zhen (Feng Shaofeng) who was dispatched to Inner Mongolia in 1967 to work with Mongolians and exchange knowledge. Chen finds a wolf cub in a cave and, against the advice of his hosts, keeps it with the purpose of taming it.
A scene featuring Feng Shaofeng (right) and Shawn Dou of the film Photos: CFP

In the unforgiving surroundings where food is at a premium, Chen has to feed the wolf on his own rations, while protecting the cub against both people and animals.

Wild beauty
Chen spends a lot of time on horseback under azure skies and rolling white clouds, riding among the grazing sheep that the nomadic locals spend most of their time protecting.

He comes to feel that he belongs in Inner Mongolia rather than his distant hometown of Beijing as he falls under the spell of the wild and beautiful land that has become his adopted home.

Annaud spares no effort in depicting the astounding landscape of Inner Mongolia, with its energizing freshness and crystal-clear air during the day, its mild solemnity permeated by the sun's last glimmers during twilight, and the pure quiet of the snow-covered white land at night.

The Mongolian characters are as charming as the scenery, led by Bilig (Basen Zhabu), an old man who is asked to cooperate with Han officials to accomplish tasks such as taking care of a Communist commune's horses and hunting wolf cubs for their fur.

The characters of Mongolians are likened to those of wolves - fierce, patient and tolerant for the most part. Like the animals on which they depend, they obey the natural law of the steppe and have a contented spirit that maintains the ecological balance.

All of the Mongolian characters are played by Mongolians, who deliver persuasive performances of authenticity.

Animal magic

It took two years to train the 17 Mongolian wolves and more than 18 months to shoot the film. This dedication has translated into some breathtaking scenes, from the savagery of wolves fighting with animals and people to touching moments when one feels empathy for the creatures.

The 3D effects are also remarkable, especially when used in close-ups during human and animal confrontations.

Besides the authentic wolves, the ridiculous and cruel reality of China during the Cultural Revolution unveiled in the film is also compelling and thought-provoking.

Audiences can see how people lived in that difficult era and get a sense of the unforgettable grief it set in motion; while the cruel ridiculousness prevalent during that time is displayed in a number of scenes.

The different values held by Han people and Mongolian people are also thrown into relief, and to some extent are mirrored in the conflict between sheep and wolf.
A poster for the film

Everyone's a critic

Kevin Sun


"I'm impressed by the confrontation between humans and nature. I think humans are too greedy. The wolf scenes are very arresting."

Vivi Zhang


"I was sucked in by the beautiful scenery of Inner Mongolia. I want to go there someday."

Wu Lan


"I saw the selfishness of humans, the wisdom of Mongolian wolves, and the generosity of Mongolian people. The scenes are grand and satisfactory, but the plot is a bit plain, not as shocking as the novel. "

Source:Global times

Ethnic Chinese writer criticises ‘fake culture forced on Mongolians’ in hit film, ‘Wolf Totem’

Guo Xuebo claims film, released at Lunar New Year showing folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads and their bond with wolves, distorts the truth

An ethnic Mongolian writer has criticised a hit new film, released in the mainland on the first day of the Lunar New Year, claiming that it distorts the truth and is based on a “fake culture forced on Mongolians [by the author]”.
Wolf Totem, based on a 2004 semi-autobiographical Chinese novel of the same name by Zhang Rong – the pen name of Lu Jiamin – describes the experiences of a young Han student, played by Feng Shaofeng, who is sent to teach in the countryside of Inner Mongolia in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.
During his days with local shepherds, the student starts to learn about the folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads, as well as their bond with wolves, which is threatened by local officials.
Wolves are greedy, selfish, cold and cruel, and advocating the spirit of wolves is [a kind of] fascist thought that goes against humanity
The book also praises the teamwork and competitive spirit of ethnic Mongolians, as well as their freedom, independence and respect for nature.
However, Guo Xuebo, a member of China Writers’ Association, said on his weibo microblog last Wednesday that wolves had never been a totem for Mongolians.
He said the new film depicted “a fake culture that has been forced on Mongolians [by the author]”.
The film had already generated ticket sales of more than 300 million yuan (about HK$380 million) by yesterday lunchtime, news portal reported.
His 1997 film, Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt – about an Austrian mountaineer’s experiences in Tibet from 1944 to ’51, including teaching the young 14th Dalai Lama – was condemned by the Chinese government, and led to Pitt and the director being banned from entering China.
Annaud, who has since been welcomed back by the Chinese authorities, has also directed The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, and The Lover, starring Tony Leung and Jane March.
“Wolves have never been the totem of Mongolians, and there’s no record of any wolf totem in any Mongolian literature and history,” Guo wrote in the microblog,
“Wolf is the natural enemy in Mongolian lives, and wolves have no team spirit and often fight with each other.
“Wolves are greedy, selfish, cold and cruel, and advocating the spirit of wolves is [a kind of] fascist thought that goes against humanity,” Guo wrote. “We reserve the legal rights to safeguard the history of our ancestors and our ethnic culture.”
Guo also said that a senior ethnic Mongolian writer had complained about the book when it was first published, but “our voices were so weak comparing with the interest group formed by the Wolf Totem”.
The film, as well as the book – one of the mainland’s best-selling novels – have both raised eyebrows on the mainland.
Lu, previously a low-profile writer from Beijing, was arrested during the Tiananmen bloody crackdown of 1989.
In an interview with Southern Weekly, Lu said his experiences – witnessing the destruction of the grasslands in Inner Mongolia by Han farmers – had aroused in him the need for self-examination into the weaknesses of the nation.
He said the Han people could learn valuable lessons from wolves about their “teamwork and friendship, their spirit to pursue independence and their indomitable will”.

Source:South China Morning Post

Mongolian sumo hulk fans flames of protocol row

AFP/File / Toru Yamanaka<br />Mongolian-born yokozuna, or grand champion, Hakuho performs during the ceremonial entrance to the ring, at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, on January 8, 2013
AFP/File / Toru Yamanaka
Mongolian-born yokozuna, or grand champion, Hakuho performs during the ceremonial entrance to the ring, at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, on January 8, 2013

Record-breaking Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho on Monday fanned the flames of a row over sumo etiquette as he denied breaching the ancient Japanese sport’s strict protocol with an outburst against officials.

Tokyo (AFP)
Peeved at being ordered to repeat a bout which had been too close to call, the hulking “yokozuna” (grand champion) let rip at the decision after surpassing the legendary Japanese wrestler Taiho to capture a 33rd Emperor’s Cup last month.
His victory prompted hand-wringing in sumo’s corridors of power as Mongolia’s stranglehold on the sport became official.
“We all have our own ideas and thoughts,” Hakuho told reporters Monday, declining to apologise for comments which triggered accusations that he, like pantomime villain Asashoryu before him, lacked the dignity required to hold sumo’s elite rank.
“All I was doing was giving my opinion, that’s all.”
Pressed to elaborate, he growled: “Sometimes in your heart there are things you can’t say.”
Jiji Press/AFP/File / -
Mongolian-born yokozuna, or sumo grand champion, Hakuho smiles in the dressing room after earlier securing victory in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, on January 23, 2015
The press conference in Osaka was then brought to an abrupt halt when sumo officials whisked Hakuho away, fearful of further controversy.
“It’s a small spat and it’s going to be used by anti-Mongolian partisans to show that the Mongolians don’t have the “hinkaku” (dignity) necessary,” Japan-watcher Michael Cucek of Temple University Japan told AFP.
“The Mongolians are just better — they have taken the sport to a new level. They’re bigger, they’re stronger and their technique is better.”
What ought to have been a storm in a teacup was blown out of proportion, Cucek said, because Hakuho had erased Taiho — widely regarded as the greatest yokozuna of the post-war era — from the record books.
“It’s absolute dominance by the Mongolians of the yokozuna rank,” he added. “There are no Japanese yokozuna and there’s no outlook for one anytime soon. It’s sour grapes, no question. The Japanese don’t like foreigners breaking their records.
“Hakuho was just exasperated with not being given the benefit of the doubt and being forced to do a rematch. It’s customary that the higher-ranking (wrestler) is automatically presumed to have won if there’s a tie.”
- Gentle giant -
Many observers feel the 29-year-old Hakuho, hitherto seen as a gentle giant, should have bitten his tongue.
“He should have been more careful,” said long-time sumo commentator Doreen Simmons. “Obviously he shouldn’t have said it out loud. When it got out, he should have immediately apologised.”
Hakuho had earned praise from officials and local media for helping restore a sense of decorum to sumo following a series of scandals that tarnished the reputation of the roly-poly sport, which is said to date back some 2,000 years.
But the goodwill somewhat evaporated when he broke the mark Taiho had set between 1960 and 1971 — although Taiho himself was born to a Japanese mother and an ethnic Ukrainian father who had fled the Bolshevik revolution.
Japan has been without a native-born yokozuna since Takanohana retired in 2003.
“The ground is fertile for even the smallest thing to explode into a huge controversy,” said Cucek. “Hakuho has a right to be frustrated. He has been otherwise absolutely admirable. He’s been the anti-Asashoryu.”
Firebrand Asashoryu won 25 Emperor’s Cups before retiring in 2010 after being accused of breaking a man’s nose in a drunken brawl outside a Tokyo nightclub.
He infamously provoked a bathtub brawl with a rival and was banned for forging a doctor’s note for a back injury, only to be caught on camera playing football wearing a Wayne Rooney shirt.
Allegations of illegal betting and links with crime syndicates, drugs busts and the bullying death of a young wrestler have shaken the closeted world of sumo to its foundations in recent years.
Hakuho extinguished those fires almost single-handedly.
“I can see how Hakuho would hope that there would be some recognition of how much he has done,” said Cucek. “Maybe after six years of being the guy, he just blurted out: ‘People, do you know who I am?'”
© 2015 AFP

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