NEW YORK—The one-day, closed door trial of Mongolian writer and historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin for criminal charges related to his writing represents a continued attack on freedom of expression and historical inquiry in Southern Mongolia, PEN America said today.

On April 4, Lhamjab Borjigin underwent a one-day, three-hour trial for the criminal charges of “national separatism,” “sabotaging national unity,” and “illegal publication and distribution” before a court in Southern Mongolia, a region of northern China also known as Inner Mongolia. The court has not yet delivered a verdict.

The charges against Lhamjab are presumed to be related to his 2006 book “China’s Cultural Revolution,” which Lhamjab self-published and which compiles the oral testimony of survivors of the Cultural Revolution within Inner Mongolia. An audio version of the book has recently become highly popular among Mongolian listeners, both in Inner Mongolia and in the neighboring country of Mongolia. Lhamjab was originally detained in July of 2018, and informed then that prosecutors intended to bring criminal charges against him. According to Lhamjab himself—who commented on his case to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Center via a recorded audio statement—he was denied a lawyer during his one-day trial, and his family was not allowed to attend. Lhamjab also reportedly commented that his trial was “unjust . . . not only against me but also against our entire Southern Mongolians who have been subjected to a series of mass killings and political persecution but are not even allowed to speak of these atrocities.”

“Lhamjab Borjigin may be the one standing before the court, but it is clearly his research and historical writings that the authorities are seeking to put on trial,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director for Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “As an organization of writers of conscience, we are deeply troubled to think that Lhamjab is facing the prospect of state-sanctioned punishment for producing a work of both literary and academic value. We have said before that historical documentation is no crime, and we again urge the authorities to drop these charges and to release Lhamjab from custody.”

Southern Mongolia has seen tensions between its ethnic Mongolian population and authorities over issues including land usage and Mongolian linguistic and cultural identity. Lhamjab is not the only Mongolian writer who has reportedly run afoul with the authorities over his expressive rights this month. Only a few days after Lhamjab’s trial, on April 12, Mongolian writer and teacher O. Sechenbaatar was reportedly detained at a protest over land access and placed under criminal detention, with criminal charges expected.


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.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]