NEW YORK—The detention of Southern Mongolian author Lhamjab A. Borjigin under expected charges of “separatism” and “sabotaging national unity” is an attack on both literary freedom and historical research, PEN America said today.

Historian and author Lhamjab A. Borjigin, from Southern Mongolia, was reportedly detained on July 11. Days later, he was informed that prosecutors intended to charge him with separatism and sabotaging national unity. The charges are apparently related to Borjigin’s work as a historical researcher and writer specializing in testimonies of the Cultural Revolution. Separatism charges can result to up to fifteen years in prison. Borjigin has rejected the charges pending against him, saying that he has only written the historical truth. In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Borjigin explained that he has told authorities “this was the truth about the Cultural Revolution . . . I was seeking truth from facts, and where was the crime in that?”

Borijigin, 74, is the author of several books on Mongolian history. His 2006 book, China’s Cultural Revolution, examines the deaths of thousands of Southern Mongolians during the Cultural Revolution, presenting the oral histories of survivors. The book was rejected by major state-run Chinese publishing houses before eventually being published by an underground press. 

“By arresting Borjigin, the authorities are in fact putting historical inquiry on trial. If prosecutors indeed bring charges against Borjigin, they are showing that they consider historical documentation to be a crime,” Summer Lopez, Senior Director for Free Expression Programs, said today. “PEN America calls upon the Chinese government to drop these intended charges and to release Borjigin from house arrest.”

Southern Mongolia, a region of northern China, has seen tensions between its ethnic Mongolian population and authorities over issues including land usage and Mongolian linguistic and cultural identity. Previous cases of Southern Mongolian writers targeted for their work include HadaGovruud Huuchinhuu, and Tumenulzii Buyanmend. Hada, the most well-known of the three, was imprisoned for a total of 19 years on national security charges, during which time he was tortured and not allowed to receive adequate medical treatment, before his release in 2016.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: