China to teach children 'ethnic unity'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Dec 19 15:24:16 UTC 2008

China to teach children 'ethnic unity'

Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:07pm EST   BEIJING (Reuters) -

Chinese children will study "ethnic unity" from primary school, the
Education Ministry said at the end of an Olympic year marred by
violent riots in Tibet and unrest in the northwestern Muslim Xinjiang
region. An outline of the new policy suggested Beijing is worried
about discontent among minority groups, although its policies in
regions like Tibet, which have attracted foreign criticism, are widely
supported at home by a generation of vocal nationalists. The new
classes will run all the way through school, with high school students
getting up to 14 hours a year to help them "recognise the superiority
of our government and Communist Party's ethnic policies," and ensure
they reflect them in their work.

Primary school children should learn a "basic awareness of the vital
nature of 'encouraging ethnic unity, protecting national unity and
opposing ethnic separatism,"' said a summary of the policy posted on
the ministry website ( Older children would gain a
"correct understanding" of government and Party policy, while those in
high school would also be expected to have a firm grasp on basic
theory about "ethnic problems" and "establish a Marxist outlook on

China has 56 officially recognised ethnic groups with the dominant Han
Chinese making up over 90 percent of the population. Most minorities
either have small populations or have largely been assimilated. But
there are still areas where widespread resentment among non-Han, who
fear their culture, religion and language are threatened by Beijing's
rule, flares up into occasional violence. Tibet ignited into deadly
riots in March, which were followed by a harsh crackdown and boosted
global interest in the demands of exiles for greater autonomy or even

This contributed to anti-China demonstrations along international legs
of the Olympic torch route, which in turn incensed many Chinese and
created a diplomatic headache for Beijing ahead of the Games. Then,
just days before the opening ceremony, a deadly attack on border
police by alleged Muslim separatists shook remote Xinjiang. The
government labelled militants seeking to set up an independent "East
Turkestan" homeland for the Uighur ethnic group as one of the top
security threats for the Games.

China's constitution guarantees religious freedom and equal treatment
for all minorities, but both Tibetans and Uighurs regularly complain
that their worship is restricted and they are discriminated against in
everything from hotels to employment.

(Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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