II. Adherence to Equality and Unity Among Ethnic Groups

In China, equality among ethnic groups means that, regardless of their population size, their level of economic and social development, the difference of their folkways, customs and religious beliefs, every ethnic group is a part of the Chinese nation, having equal status, enjoying the same rights and performing the same duties in every aspect of political and social life according to law, and ethnic oppression or discrimination of any form is firmly opposed. Unity among ethnic groups means a relationship of harmony, friendship, mutual assistance and alliance among ethnic groups in social life and mutual contacts. To achieve such unity, the various ethnic groups are required to, on the basis of opposition to ethnic oppression and discrimination, safeguard and promote unity among themselves and within every particular ethnic group and the people of all ethnic groups should, jointly and with one heart and one mind, promote the development and prosperity of the nation, oppose ethnic splits and safeguard the unification of the country. The Chinese government has always maintained that equality among ethnic groups is the precondition and basis for unity among ethnic groups, that the latter cannot be achieved without the former, that the latter is the logical outcome of the former and a guarantee for promoting ethnic equality in its true sense.

Equality and unity among ethnic groups as the basic principle and policy for resolving ethnic problems have been clearly defined in the Constitution and relevant laws.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates: ``All ethnic groups in the People's Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the ethnic minorities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's ethnic groups. Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited.'' Citizens of all ethnic groups in China enjoy all equal rights accorded to citizens by the Constitution and law. For instance, they have the rights to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race and religious belief; their personal freedom and dignity are inviolable; they enjoy freedom of religious belief; they have the right to receive education; they have the right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages; they enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration; they have the right to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural pursuits; they have the right to work and rest, and the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are disabled; they have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary; and they have the freedom to preserve or change their own folkways and customs4.

The Chinese government has adopted special policies and measures to effectively realize and guarantee the right to equality among all ethnic groups, which is prescribed by the Constitution and law, in social life and government activities. As a result, a favorable social environment has been created for ethnic groups to treat each other on an equal footing and to develop a relationship of unity, harmony, friendship and mutual assistance among them.

Protection of the Personal Freedom of Ethnic Minorities

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the economic and social development of the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities was unbalanced; some areas were in society under the serf system, some under the slave system and some even in the later period of the primitive system. The mass of the minority people in these areas were vassals of big feudal lords, nobles, temples or slave owners; they had no personal freedom and could be sold or bought or given as gifts by their owners at will5. In Tibet the Thirteen-Point Law and Sixteen-Point Law formulated in the 17th century and used for more than 300 years, divided the people strictly into three classes and nine grades: the people of the upper class were big nobles, Grand Living Buddhas and high officials, the people of the intermediate class were ordinary clerical and secular officials, junior officers and stewards of upper class people, and the people of the lower class were serfs and slaves. According to these Laws the value of the life of a top-grade person of the upper class was measured by the weight of his body in gold, while the life of a lowest-grade person of the lower class was as cheap as a straw rope. However, the people of the lower class exceeded 95 percent of the total population of Tibet6. It is obvious that without the reform of the backward social and political system in minority areas the various equal rights of minority peoples stipulated in the Constitution and the law could not be realized.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government adopted different measures to institute democratic reform successively in the minority areas at the will of the minority of the people in these areas, and completed the reform in the late 1950s. This reform abolished all the privileges of the privileged few--feudal lords, nobles and tribal chiefs--and the old system of exploitation and oppression of man by man. As a result, tens of thousands of the minority people won emancipation and personal freedom and became masters of their homelands and their own destinies. The democratic reform which took place in Tibet in 1959 eradicated the feudal serf system marked by the combination of government and religion and the dictatorship of nobles and monks, thus tens of thousands of serfs and slaves under the old system got their personal freedom and became masters of the new society.

All Ethnic Groups Participate in State Affairs
Administration on an Equal Footing

In China, the minority and Han peoples participate as equals in the management of affairs of the state and local governments at various levels, and the rights of the minority ethnic groups to take part in the management of state affairs are especially guaranteed. Elections to the National People's Congress(NPC)--the highest organ of state power--fully reflect respect for the rights of ethnic minorities. In accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Law of the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses of the People's Republic of China, the minority peoples shall have their own deputies to sit in the NPC, and the ethnic groups whose population is less than that prescribed for electing one deputy are permitted to elect one deputy. From the first session of the First NPC, held in 1954, to the present day, the proportions of deputies of ethnic minorities among the total number of deputies in every NPC have been higher than the proportions of their populations in the nation's total population in the corresponding periods. Of 2,979 deputies elected in 1998 to the Ninth NPC, 428 deputies were from ethnic minority, accounting for 14.37 percent of the total, which was about five percentage points higher than the proportion of their total population in the nation's total population at that time.

In areas where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, each of them may have its own deputy or deputies sit in the local people's congresses. Ethnic minorities living in scattered groups may also elect their own deputies to the local people's congresses and the number of people represented by each of their deputies may be less than the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to such congresses.

The state has made great efforts to train ethnic minority cadres and enlist their service. To date, there are well over 2,700,000 minority cadres throughout the country. The ethnic minorities also have a fairly large appropriate number of personnel working in the central and local state organs, administrative organs, judicial organs and procuratorial organs, taking part in the management of national and local affairs. Today, among the vice-chairpersons of the Standing Committee of the NPC, those of ethnic minority origin account for 21 percent; among the vice-chairpersons of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), those of ethnic minority origin account for 9.6 percent; of the leading members of the State Council, one is of ethnic minority origin; among the leaders of the component departments of the State Council, two ministers are from ethnic minority groups; and the heads of the governments of the 155 ethnic autonomous regions, prefectures and counties (or banners) are all from ethnic minority groups.

Identification of Ethnic Minorities

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, it had never been made clear how many ethnic minorities there were in China. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, to implement the policy of equality among ethnic groups in an all-round way the state has organized large-scale investigations since 1953 to identify the ethnic groups. Proceeding from conditions both past and present and in accordance with the principle of combination of scientific identification and the wishes of the given ethnic group, every group which accords with the conditions for an ethnic group is identified as a single ethnic group, regardless of its level of social development and the sizes of its inhabited area and population. By 1954, the Chinese government had identified 38 ethnic groups in all, after careful investigation and study. By 1964, the Chinese government had identified another 15 ethnic groups. With the addition of the Lhoba ethnic group, identified in 1965, and the Jino ethnic group, identified in 1979, there are 55 ethnic minority groups which have been formally recognized and made known to the public. Now, in New China many ethnic minority groups which had not been recognized by the rulers of old China have been recognized as they should, and they all enjoy equal rights with other ethnic groups in China.

Opposing Ethnic Discrimination or Oppression of Any Form

Under the system of ethnic discrimination and oppression in old China, many ethnic minorities did not have proper names or names given in the spirit of equality. The names of certain minority-inhabited areas even carried the implications of ethnic discrimination or oppression. In 1951 the Central People's Government promulgated the Directive on Dealing with the Appellations, Place Names, Monuments, Tablets and Inscriptions Bearing Contents Discriminating Against or Insulting Ethnic Minorities, and such names, appellations, etc. were resolutely abolished. Some ethnic appellations not implying insults were also changed at the wish of the given ethnic group, for instance, the appellation of the Tong ethnic group was changed to Zhuang.

In China any words or acts aimed at inciting hostility and discrimination against any ethnic group and sabotaging equality and unity among peoples are regarded as violating the law. Any ethnic minority subjected to discrimination, oppression or insult, has the right to complain to judicial institutions at any level, which have the duty of handling the complaint.

China has joined international conventions such as The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and has conscientiously performed the duties prescribed in these conventions and made unremitting efforts together with the international community to realize ethnic equality and oppose racial segregation and ethnic oppression and discrimination in all countries of the world.

Upholding and Promoting the Unity of All Ethnic Groups

To safeguard equality among ethnic groups and enhance their unity, the Constitution contains provisions on the need to combat big-ethnic group chauvinism, mainly Han chauvinism, and local ethnic chauvinism. The state also educates all citizens in the unity of all ethnic groups. In literary and art works, films and televisions programs, news reports and academic research, China vigorously advocates the equality and unity of ethnic groups, and opposes ethnic oppression and discrimination, and especially big-ethnic group chauvinism. Besides, to prevent and eliminate big-ethnic-group chauvinism and inequality in the ideological field, the relevant departments and organs of the Chinese government have worked out special provisions to strictly prohibit contents damaging ethnic unity in the media, publications, and literary and art works.

Since the 1980s, the Chinese government and the relevant departments have held meetings to commend ethnic unity and progress, at which those units and individuals who uphold the equal rights of ethnic groups and promote harmonious coexistence and common progress and prosperity of ethnic groups are praised and encouraged.

Following the launching of a nationwide in-depth movement for the unity and progress of ethnic groups, in 1988 the Chinese government held the first national meeting to commend and give awards to units and individuals distinguished in this regard, at which the commendation involved 565 advanced collectives and 601 advanced individuals. At the second national meeting, held in 1994, a total of 1,200 model units and individuals were cited, and the third national meeting is scheduled to be held in Beijing in 1999. The holding of this kind of meetings has gone a long way toward inspiring the advanced, encouraging healthy trends and making ethnic unity become a powerful part of public opinion and a fine moral conduct in society. It has not only pushed forward the cause for unity and progress among ethnic groups, but it has also exerted a far-reaching influence on the maintenance of stability in ethnic minority areas and the nation at large.

Respecting and Protecting the Freedom of
Religious Belief of Ethnic Minorities

China is home to many religions, mainly Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. Most people belonging to ethnic minorities in China hold religious beliefs. In the case of certain ethnic groups religions are followed on a mass scale, for instance the Tibetans have Tibetan Buddhism as their traditional religion. In accordance with the Constitution's provisions on freedom of religious belief of citizens, the Chinese government has formulated specific policies to ensure respect for and safeguard freedom of religious belief for ethnic minorities and guarantee all normal religious activities of ethnic minorities citizens. In China, all normal religious activities, such as those of Tibetan Buddhism, which is followed by the Tibetan, Mongolian, Tu, Yugur and Moinba ethnic groups, Islam, followed by the Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Salar, Bonan, Kirgiz, Tajik, Ozbek and Tatar ethnic groups, and Christianity, followed by some people of the Miao and Yao ethnic groups, are all protected by law. To date, there are more than 30,000 mosques in China, of which 23,000 are in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. In Tibet there are over 1,700 places for Tibetan-Buddhism activities.

Use and Development of Spoken and Written Languages
of Ethnic Minorities

All ethnic groups in China have the freedom and right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. In the 1950s, China organized specialists to make investigations of the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities, and established special organizations involved in work connected with the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities as well as institutions to research these languages, to train specialists in these languages, help minority people create, improve or reform their written languages, and promote the use of spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in every field.

Now, all the 55 national minorities, except the Hui and Manchu, who use the Chinese language, have their own languages: among them 21 use 27 languages, and more than ten ethnic goups, including the Zhuang, Bouyei, Miao, Naxi, Lisu, Hani, Va, Dong, Jingpo (Zaiva language family) and Tu, use 13 languages which have been created or improved with the help of the government.

The spoken and written languages of national minorities are widely used in judicial, administrative and educational fields, as well as in political activities and social life. In the political activities of the state, such as important meetings held by the NPC and the CPPCC, and national and local important activities, documents in Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Kazak, Korean, Yi, Zhuang and other ethnic minorities, and language interpretation to or from these languages are provided. The organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas all use one or more languages of their areas when they perform their duties. In the educational field the organs of self-government, in accordance with the educational principles of the state and the law, work out their local educational programs and decide on the languages to be used in teaching in the local schools. In schools with minority students as the main body and other educational institutions the languages of the ethnic groups concerned or languages commonly used in the locality are used in teaching. China publishes about 100 newspapers in 17 minority languages and 73 periodicals in 11 minority languages. The Central People's Broadcasting Station and local broadcasting stations use 16 minority languages, and regional, prefectural and county broadcasting stations or rediffusion stations use more than 20. As many as 3,410 feature films have been produced and 10,430 films dubbed in minority languages. By 1998, 36 publishing houses specializing in publishing for national minorities had published more than 53 million copies of 4,100-odd titles of books in 23 minority languages.