Asia-Pacific

Second death sentence after Inner Mongolia unrest

Handout photo taken on 23 May 2011 by Southern Mongolian Human Rights shows Chinese riot police blocking a street in Xilinhot
Image caption Hundreds of ethnic Mongolians took part in protests

A court in China has sentenced a coalmine worker to death for killing a protester, in an incident that fuelled Inner Mongolia's worst unrest in years.

Sun Shuning was found guilty of deliberately hitting a man with his forklift truck during a protest last month over pollution from a coal mine.

Earlier this month, another truck driver was sentenced to death for killing an ethnic Mongolian herder.

The herder's death sparked protests across the northern Chinese region.

The herder, named Mergen, was with about 20 other protesters at the time of his death as he tried to stop the coal truck driving across pastureland.

Mergen was run over and dragged nearly 150m (490ft) before he died, officials said.

The co-driver was given a life term for his role in the 10 May killing, which led to a series of protests in towns and cities across Inner Mongolia - which the security forces acted quickly to put down.

'Cruel'

In the latest case, Sun was convicted of murdering Yan Wenlong after "a dispute over pollution caused by a coal mine," state news agency Xinhua said.

"The act was utterly cruel, the crime very serious, and the consequences extremely bad," it cited a statement from the court in Xilinhot.

The trials come just weeks after the deaths, with the authorities keen to show they are satisfying the calls for justice, analysts say.

The Chinese government has announced plans to address the protesters' concerns, including a crackdown on unmonitored coal extraction and measures to ensure more environmentally sound mining.

Inner Mongolia is China's largest coal producing region.

The region has traditionally been home to nomadic Mongolian herders. But it has seen an influx of mining companies keen to exploit the region's rich coal reserves, damaging grazing lands.

Less than 20% of Inner Mongolia's estimated 25 million residents are ethnic Mongolians.

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