Mongolians protest against alleged theft of coal sold to China

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Protesters angered by allegations of corruption linked to Mongolia’s coal trade with China have tried to force their way into the State Palace in the capital, demanding the dismissals of officials involved in the scandal.

The US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar issued an alert Monday saying that several hundred protesters had gathered in the freezing cold in the city’s Sukhbaatar Square during the weekend and marched to the presidential residence.

The demonstrators were demanding that the government hold officials accountable for the alleged theft of 385,000 tonnes of coal from stockpiles on Mongolia’s border with China.

Mongolia protesters
Protesters gather near the State Palace on Sukhbaatar Square (AP)

Local media reports said ETT, which is listed on Mongolia’s stock exchange, has been placed under state supervision as the government’s Independent Authority Against Corruption investigates.

Foreign sales of Mongolia’s vast mineral wealth, coal and other resources are a perennial source of conflict for the country, where nearly one in three people live in poverty.

Adding to the frustrations, the pandemic has left many Mongolians struggling to make ends meet, with inflation topping 15%.

Mongolian protesters
Protesters are angered by allegations of corruption linked to Mongolia’s coal trade with China (AP)

China is the destination of most of landlocked Mongolia’s exports of coal, cashmere, livestock and other resources.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesperson who was asked about allegations that coal was stolen for sale inside China said she was unaware of that “specific situation”, adding: “China is a friendly neighbour of Mongolia, and we believe the Mongolian government will properly handle and investigate the matter.

“The competent Chinese authority will provide necessary assistance as requested by the Mongolian side in accordance with laws and regulations.”

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