Leading rights group Amnesty International is urging China to use restraint in dealing with protests in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.
In a press release Friday, Amnesty said Chinese authorities must avoid a violent crackdown on demonstrations after martial law was declared in some areas to quell five days of protests.
Hundreds of ethnic Mongolians staged rare demonstrations in China this past week, fueled by anger over the death of a shepherd who was hit by a Chinese truck driver earlier this month.
The shepherd was run over and killed as he and others were trying to block coal mining trucks from driving over land used for grazing cattle.
The New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center says a protest march was staged last Monday in the town of Xilinhot in China's Inner Mongolia. The center has released dozens of photos posted on Chinese blogs showing demonstrators facing off against police in front of the city government building.
The Xilinhot government issued a statement saying at least two people have been arrested in connection with the shepherd's death.
Ethnic Mongolians have complained of being marginalized by China's dominant ethnic Han group, who have migrated to the region to tap its vast coal reserves.
Similar frustrations over Han Chinese migration have sparked violent and even deadly protests in Tibet and western Xinjiang province.