2015 footage shows a Mongolian union leader who set himself on fire over Chinese coal mine takeover

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Graphic footage of a man in flames has circulated on social media across Africa with claims it shows Mongolia’s public works minister who set himself on fire over his failure to keep his promise to deliver 100,000 low-income apartments within a year. However, the claim is false: the video is of a Mongolian union leader who self-immolated in protest at the planned sale of the country’s coal mining industry to China. 

One of the earliest versions of the claim circulated in Nigeria on Facebook and Twitter in mid-February 2022, according to data provided by the social networks.

“Minister of Public Works in Mongolia promised 100,000 units of Houses at the end of the year. He also promised to set himself ablaze if he fails to fulfill the promise,” reads a Facebook post shared alongside the disturbing clip. 

Screenshot taken on February 24, 2022, showing the false Facebook post


“At the end of the year, he could only deliver 70,000 units. He called a press conference during which, to keep his promise, he set himself ablaze. Honour can be costly.”

More than 13,000 Facebook users have seen the clip since it was published on February 15, 2022. 

The footage has also spread to other countries in Africa, including neighbouring Ghana, Zambia, and Uganda.

However, the video actually shows a union boss who self-immolated over the looming sale of Mongolia’s coal-mining monopoly to China.

Footage of Mongolian union leader

The logo of British daily newspaper Daily Mail is visible in the top left-hand corner of the clip. Based on this, AFP Fact Check conducted a keyword search on  Google that led to the source of the clip.

“The horrifying moment a Mongolian union boss sets himself on FIRE to protest sale of country’s coal mining industry (sic),” reads the headline of a 2015 story on the Daily Mail website. It features the clip and several screenshots from the same incident.

The article explains that the union leader poured flammable liquid over his body and set himself on fire at a press conference to protest Mongolia’s plan to sell off its coal mining industry to neighbouring China.

“The government no longer supports our company, families of the workers are forced to starve, this is why I will burn myself for the people of Mongolia and our children,” the unidentified man is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail story.

Meanwhile, Russian state-owned television RT identified the man in the video as S.Erdene of the Solidarity Trade Union, in an article published on November 17, 2015. 

The incident followed Mongolia’s two-year plan to sell stakes in 10 state-owned enterprises in 2015 to boost investor support for its economy. The project failed following several pushbacks.