BEIJING: Authorities in China's Inner Mongolia should address the "reasonable" grievances of ethnic Mongols who have staged protests, but their actions are not "politically driven", a state newspaper said Tuesday.
The northern region has seen a wave of demonstrations triggered by the May 10 killing of an ethnic Mongol herder by a Han Chinese driver which have laid bare simmering resentment over what some perceive as Chinese oppression.
But the English-language Global Times, a tabloid with links to the ruling Communist party, said in a commentary that the protests which prompted a major security clampdown -- were about economic anxiety, not ethnic strife.
"The Mongolian protests... are not a politically driven demonstration. Some of their requests are reasonable, and should be responded to by the local government," the newspaper said.
But it rejected as "improper" any link between the situation in the region bordering Mongolia and outbursts of ethnic turmoil in Tibet in 2008 and in the remote northwestern region of Xinjiang in 2009.
"Social conflicts are on the rise in China and ethnic minority areas are no exception. But the incidents there should not be exaggerated or over-interpreted," it said.
"Anger of local Mongolians toward the Han driver is understandable. The anger is also partly a result of their anxiety over a wave of industrialisation, and how the mining industry might affect their lives."
The herder had been among a group of Mongols who attempted to block a convoy of coal-hauling trucks in the Xilingol area, according to the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center.
Many of China's six million ethnic Mongols have expressed frustration at what they say is an influx of members of China's dominant Han ethnic group triggered by the region's rich coal and other energy deposits.
Some say that influx has displaced herders, destroyed grazing lands and killed livestock.
Areas of Inner Mongolia were under tight security on Monday, as authorities looked to stave off any further protests. The last demonstration reported by the US-based rights group took place Saturday.
The Global Times, citing residents, reported Tuesday that the protests were "over".
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011