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VI. Equal Rights and Special Protection for Ethnic Minorities
2004/06/16



  In China, ethnic minorities enjoy not only all the rights citizens are entitled to by the Constitution and laws as the Han people do, but also the special rights enjoyed only by ethnic minorities according to law. To guarantee the equal rights and special rights and interests of ethnic minorities, China practices a system of regional ethnic autonomy in ethnic minority areas. In February 2001, the Standing Committee of the Ninth NPC made amendments to the Law Governing Regional Ethnic Autonomy, upgrading the system of regional ethnic autonomy as part of the basic political system of China. New stipulations added in the Law include: carrying out necessary special policies in the ethnic autonomous areas, and increasing investments in and accelerating the development of these areas, which have further strengthened the legal guarantee of autonomy in the autonomous areas. According to statistics, the 55 ethnic minorities in China have a combined population of more than 100 million, or 8.41 percent of the country's total population, of which 75 percent enjoy regional ethnic autonomy.

  The right of ethnic minorities to participate in the administration of state affairs on an equal footing and the autonomous right to manage their own regions and affairs are safeguarded by law. In the NPC and the CPPCC National Committee of successive terms, the percentage of ethnic minority representatives has far exceeded the proportion of the ethnic minority population in the national population, and each of the 55 ethnic minorities, no matter what their populations, has its own representatives. There are altogether 428 ethnic minority deputies to the Ninth NPC and 257 ethnic minority members on the CPPCC Ninth National Committee, accounting for 14.37 percent and 11.7 percent of the total, respectively. Among the chairperson or vice-chairpersons of the standing committee of the people's congress of an autonomous area there shall be one or more citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned, and the other members of the people's governments of these regions, prefectures and counties shall include members of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy as well as members of other ethnic minorities so far as it is reasonable. By the end of 1999, there were altogether 2.824 million ethnic minority cadres. In 2000, there were over 50, 000 ethnic minority cadres in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and Tibetan cadres accounted for over 70 percent of the total number of cadres there. Tibetan deputies and those of other ethnic minorities exceeded 80 percent of the total number of deputies to the people's congresses of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  The state implements an assistance policy toward the economic and social development of the minority regions, by providing funding, technology and personnel to promote the economic and social development and the improvement of the people's living standard in those regions. In 2000, the GDP of these regions increased by an average of 8.1 percent, compared with the previous year. This rate has been higher than that of the national average since 1997. The financial revenue of these regions increased by 14. 2 percent over that of the year before; and the total volume of retail sales of consumption goods increased by 9.0 percent over that of the previous year. From 1994 to 1999, the minority regions had solved the problems of food and clothing for over 30 million poverty-stricken people. In recent years, the annual financial set- quota subsidy from the Central Government to Tibet has been over 1. 2 billion yuan annually. The 62 aid-Tibet projects with a total investment of 4.6 billion yuan and another 716 projects, with a total investment of 3.2 billion yuan from ministries, commissions and other central government institutions, and 15 provinces and municipalities have been completed and put to use. According to statistics, the length of highways in Tibet has reached 25,000 km; the total installed capacity of electricity has reached 340,000 kw; and all counties in Tibet have set up telephone systems connected with the national one. An infrastructure suited to the development of a market economy is now in initial shape in Tibet. The GDP of Tibet has surpassed the ten billion yuan mark, and the growth rate of the region's economy has exceeded the national average for six years running, at 10.7 percent annually. There have been bumper harvests for the past 13 years, and now the Tibetans can support themselves with the grain, oil and meat produced by themselves. Nowadays, 98 percent of the commodities in Tibet are in excess of demand, a sharp contrast to the old days when 80 percent of needed goods in Tibet had to be transferred from the inland areas. The number of absolutely poor people in Tibet has been reduced from the 480,000 in 1994 to the present 70,000. Most of the people in Tibet today are fast on their way to living a relatively comfortable life.

  The state makes great efforts to support the ethnic minority regions in developing education, and has set aside special subsidies and funds for this purpose. In 2000, the government began to carry out the "Project for Schools in Eastern Regions to Aid Schools in Poverty-Stricken Areas in the West" and the " Project for Large and Medium Cities in the West Aiding Schools in Poverty-stricken Areas in Their Own Provinces (Autonomous Regions or Municipalities)." Besides, the government worked out the " Proposals on Accelerating the Reform and Development of Vocational Education in Ethnic Minority Regions and Regional Ethnic Autonomy Areas," demanding that measures be taken to establish and perfect an effective system and safeguard mechanism for investment in vocational education development in ethnic minority regions and to train teachers and management personnel for these regions. According to statistics, in 2000 there were 925,000 full-time ethnic minority teachers and 18.5249 million ethnic minority students in schools of all levels and types across the country. Minority students in primary schools, middle schools and colleges accounted for 9.08 percent, 6.77 percent and 5.71 percent, respectively, of the total number of students in those schools. Now all the 55 ethnic minorities have their own college students, and some even are master's and doctor's degree holders. Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the state has poured over one billion yuan into the development of education in Tibet. The state has not only set up Tibetan secondary and primary schools in inland regions, and Tibetan classes at inland universities, but it has also set up four universities and more than 1,000 secondary and primary schools in Tibet, bringing the attendance rate of Tibetan school-age children to 85.8 percent from less than 2 percent before 1951, and has trained over 30,000 personnel in various skills for Tibet.

  The state safeguards the freedom of the ethnic minorities to utilize and develop their own languages. The organs of self- government in autonomous areas may use one or several languages commonly used in the locality, according to law, in performing their functions, in film, radio and television, and in books, newspapers and magazines. Since the 1950s, the Chinese government has helped over 10 ethnic minorities create and improve scripts of their own choice on the principle of voluntariness. Nowadays, 53 of the 55 ethnic minorities across the country have their own languages, including over 80 dialects; 21 ethnic minorities have a total of 27 scripts of their own in current use, which are all computer-readable; and many of the minorities have radio, film, television, books and periodicals in their own languages. The state helps the minority regions to institute teaching in the local languages or bilingual teaching and to enhance the editing of teaching materials in minority languages. Primary and middle schools in Tibet teach in the Tibetan language or in both the Tibetan and Chinese languages, and all the 181 textbooks, 122 teaching reference books and 16 syllabi of 16 courses used in schools from the primary to the senior high have been translated into Tibetan. After the establishment of the Mongolian Language Net, the first Tibetan language net in the world -- the Tongyuan Tibetan Language Net -- was established in December 1999 at the Northwest Institute for Ethnic Minorities in Lanzhou, Gansu Province.

  The Chinese government sets store by protecting and developing the traditional cultures of ethnic minorities, and respects their folkways and customs in such aspects as diet, marriage, funeral, festival celebration and religious belief. In February 2000, the Ministry of Culture and State Commission of Ethnic Affairs jointly promulgated the "Proposals on Further Strengthening Ethnic Minority-related Cultural Work," stressing the need to protect the unique traditional cultures and rich cultural heritages of all the ethnic minorities and set up ethnic minority cultural and ecological preservation zones where possible, at the same time demanding that the Han-inhabited eastern developed regions increase their assistance to the minority-inhabited western regions in their projects for cultural development. To date, 24 art universities and colleges across the country have opened classes specially for training artists of minority origin, and all the colleges for ethnic minorities and some middle schools and colleges in autonomous areas have also offered special courses of study on minority literature, music, dance and fine arts. Since the 1990s, the central and local budgets have earmarked special subsides and funds for building, extending or repairing a number of libraries, cultural centers, cultural clubs, museums, cinemas and theaters. In recent years, the central and Tibetan regional governments have spent nearly 300 million yuan to repair and protect the Potala Palace, Sakya Monastery, Jokhang Temple and Drepung Monastery, the Guge Kingdom ruins in Ngari, and other important cultural and historical sites. At present, there are over 50 Tibetan studies institutes nationwide with over 2,000 researchers, and more than 10 Tibetological periodicals in the Tibetan, Chinese and English languages. The first four Tibetan- language volumes of the Tibetan epic King Gesar, the highest achievement of ancient Tibetan culture, have been published. The College of Tibetan Medicine, the biggest and most authoritative of its kind in China, has trained over 650 undergraduate students and students of junior college level and 10 master's degree students.

  Due to the influence of natural, historical and other factors, the western region, where ethnic minorities are concentrated, lags far behind the south eastern seaboard region economically -- a fact which, to a large extent, restricts the improvement of the conditions for the subsistence and development of the minority peoples. To solve this problem once and for all, the Chinese government began in 2000 to implement a strategy for the all-out development of the west, at the same time intensifying its assistance to the minority regions in policy-related matters, funds and personnel. This will forcefully promote economic and social development in these regions, and the full realization of the equal rights of ethnic minorities.











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