Residents are protesting against plans to build
commercial properties in an area known as Beatles Square, where
a bronze bas-relief monument to the "Fab Four" commemorates the
former Soviet satellite's transition to democracy in 1990.
"For a long time there were stories about construction on the
land, but nobody wanted to believe it," said Tsoggerel Uyanga, a
community organizer and senior partner at research group MAD
The monument, erected in 2008 with donations from politicians,
businessmen and artists, marks the site where Mongolians
gathered to talk about banned Western pop music and soon became
a quirky tourist attraction.
The music of the Beatles, Abba, and other Western pop groups
helped launch the "Rock and Roll Communist Revolution" that
inspired a generation to fight for Mongolian democracy thirty
The protests began after an August 2 announcement that
construction work would start, with residents calling the
project a "land grab" and expressing fears the Beatles statue
could be moved or even demolished.
Authorities have defended the development as part of a "car-free
street" project to build an underground shopping complex
complete with street gardens.
A lawyer for Mongolia's National Construction Association said
there were no plans to remove the Beatles statue, however.
"By implementing the project, there are a great deal of
advantages, such as increasing jobs and reducing traffic
congestion," said D. Uuganbayar, the lawyer.
The national association, the city government and a private
contractor called "Buti" are leading the project.
Congestion and pollution have grown in the capital as its
population has doubled over the last two decades, with thousands
of impoverished herders flocking to settle in makeshift
The strain on Ulaanbaatar's infrastructure has forced the city
to rethink its planning of urban spaces, and drawn criticism for
the sale of public land to wealthy buyers.
Investors have failed in the past to deliver on promises to
protect public spaces affected by development, Uyanga said,
pointing to the Bogd Khan conservation area where the World Bank
had raised concerns about overdevelopment.
"It became a black market for land authorities during the early
democratic years," said Uyanga.
(Editing by David Stanway and Clarence Fernandez)
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