China to preserve ethnic policy

Source: Global Times [14:35 September 28 2009]

By Zhang Lei

China will continue to provide benefits and meet the challenges faced by dozens of ethnic groups across the country, officials told reporters Sunday.

"Some may think the benefits are too many, even beyond a certain scope, but the policies are most necessary as they are not targeted at a certain ethnic group but implemented in entire minority regions," said Wu Shimin, deputy director of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC), following the release of a white paper entitled China's Ethnic Policy and Common Prosperity and Development of All Ethnic Groups.

Wu made the remarks in response to a Reuters reporter's question whether it was true that the July 5 riots in Xinjiang made some Han people unhappy with the government policy, which gives Uygur people extra benefits. And what the government will do to handle it?

Yang Jing, director of SEAC, said at the same event that the policy of giving extra marks to minority students taking the National college entrance exam would continue as well.

"As President Hu Jintao said during his visits to Yunnan and Xinjiang, the government will intensify efforts to support economic and social development in minority regions," he added.

In 2008, for example, the central government spent 827 million yuan ($122 million) to build 83 education centers and secondary vocational schools, as well as 145 practical training bases and 10 international level advanced vocational schools in the five autonomous regions. The government also allocated 974 million yuan to assist 830,000 students, accounting for 90 percent of the students according to the white paper.

Yang said central and local governments are making efforts to increase vocational training and employment opportunities for Uygur youths so that they are more competitive.

Wu said there was no "influx" of Han people into the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and other minority regions, as communication and migration were common between various ethnic groups.

He also said China never "controls" the freedom of religion.

"The freedom of religious belief in China is guaranteed. In Tibet, there are more than 1,700 Tibetan Buddhist temples, and in Xinjiang, there are more than 20,000 mosques," he said.

In addition, the languages used by ethnic minorities are facing challenges.

"Some experts say as many as 60 to 70 languages disappear each year, which is a general trend," Wu said.

The white paper highlights China's ethnic policy and its achievements in strengthening ethnic harmony and equality over the past 60 years. It comes after "Development and Progress in Xinjiang" last Monday.

Divided into seven sections, the paper focuses on the social, economic and cultural development of minority groups and China's principles in handling ethnic affairs, religious belief and regional ethnic autonomy.

"China has paved out a correct path to solve ethnic issues with Chinese characteristics," said Yang.