BEIJING — Mongolia's Communist Party newspaper warned a pro-reform group Friday not to push too far in its efforts to promote democratic change. It was the first official public criticism of the remote Asian nation's fledgling reform movement.
A foreign source in Ulan Bator, the capital, said the comments in the daily newspaper Unen came after a street rally Jan. 13 that attracted up to 5,000 people, and several incidents of vandalism this week, including the theft of a small statue of Stalin.
The source said one article in the paper pinpointed several leaders of the newly formed Mongolian Democratic Union and said they were going "too far" in pushing for democratic reform.
The MDU, thought to be composed mainly of intellectuals and artists, staged two rallies in December that drew crowds in the hundreds, and then held the larger Jan. 13 demonstration.
During the latest demonstration, speakers for the first time criticized government leaders by name and demanded that Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal, Mongolia's autocratic ruler for more than three decades before he was purged in 1984, be put on trial.
The demonstrators were given permission for all three rallies and police made no attempt to interfere.
Mongolia, a nation of 2 million people scattered across a nation nearly the size of West Europe, has been a client state of the Soviet Union since the Communists took power in 1921.
It has cautiously taken up the economic and political reforms advanced by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, although little progress has been made in introducing market principles and there has been no serious challenge, as in East Europe, to Communist Party rule.
"No one is looking for a great confrontation such as happened in East Europe," the source said. "It's a very different cultural milieu here."
The source said the MDU plans to hold another rally Sunday. He said it was difficult to predict whether the authorities, now that they have criticized the movement, will try to stop it. "All of this is so new," he said.