[lg policy] China Offers a Defense of Its Policies on Minorities

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 23 17:49:55 UTC 2009

China Offers a Defense of Its Policies on Minorities


BEIJING — A senior Chinese official said the government’s ethnic
minority policies were “effective” and were not the root cause of the
deadly rioting that occurred on July 5, when ethnic Uighurs killed
ethnic Han by the scores in Urumqi, the capital of the western
Xinjiang region, the state news media reported on Wednesday. The
statements were the most vocal defense by a government official since
July 5 of the nation’s ethnic minority policies, which had been widely
criticized by foreign scholars, exiled ethnic minority leaders and
residents of ethnic minority regions even before the violence took
place. About 10 percent of the 1.3 billion people in China are members
of ethnic minorities, according to government statistics.

The Chinese official, Wu Shimin, vice minister of the State Ethnic
Affairs Commission, said at a news conference on Tuesday that
government policies “had nothing to do with the violent crimes” that
unfolded in Urumqi, according to China Daily, the largest official
English-language newspaper here. At least 197 people were killed and
1,721 injured, most of them Han civilians, when Uighurs went on a
rampage the evening of July 5 after police officers tried suppressing
a Uighur protest, according to the government. Vengeful Han, the
dominant ethnic group in China, then attacked Uighurs over the next
few days. Many Uighurs in Urumqi say the government has severely
undercounted the Uighur casualties.

Many Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim people who are the largest ethnic group
here in the oil-rich region of Xinjiang, express concern and
frustration over a variety of government policies related to
employment, language and religion. They say, for example, that the
government places too many limits on the practice of Islam. They
accuse the state-run enterprises, especially large farms, construction
businesses and oil companies, of discriminating against Uighurs in
hiring. They also express dismay at the fact that the government has
severely curtailed the use of the Uighur language in classrooms.

Many Uighurs and foreign scholars say policies like these generate
fury among the Uighurs, especially among young men who cannot compete
with Han migrants for jobs. Wang Lequan, the long-serving secretary of
the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, has been blamed for shaping
and reinforcing many of these policies. Tibetans have expressed
frustration at the same kinds of policies, and the Dalai Lama, the
exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans, has pressed the Chinese
government for greater autonomy in Tibetan areas. In March 2008,
protests and riots erupted across the entire Tibetan plateau,
presaging the recent unrest in Xinjiang.

But many Han say the government gives Uighurs, Tibetans and China’s
other 53 ethnic minorities too many benefits. For example, they say,
the government allows Uighurs to have two or three children without
being fined, as Han are if they have more than one child. It also
gives Uighur students extra points on standardized university entrance
examinations. Other ethnic minorities are governed by similar
policies, but the specific details vary with each minority. Mr. Wu
said that although the overall ethnic minority policies were working,
“improvements might be made when necessary,” China Daily reported. He
added that local governments might need to do a better job carrying
out the policies.

“The current policies include guiding principles set by the central
government and regulations of local governments,” he said, “but a
deeper understanding is needed when it comes to making policies at the
local level.”


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