August 27, 2009
Although there are differences between the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang, there are also similarities. This note it is not judgmental and is intended as a constructive contribution to the need to solve a serious tension in Chinese society concerning ethnic minorities,
Satisfying the preservation of the unity of a country and the aspirations of its minorities is always difficult: it is especially difficult for China, having regard to its size and history.
The troubles in Tibet and Xinjiang are, of course, a challenge to the creation of a harmonious society. Beijing therefore needs to carry out an in-depth and objective assessment of its policies towards minorities, concluding with a set of realistic recommendations.
The report should address all five autonomous regions, namely Guangxiin (the Zhuang), Inner Mongolia (the Mongols), Ningxia (the Hui), Tibet (the Tibetans) and Xinjiang (the Uyghurs).
Questions which should be addressed include:
• Is the conduct of local leaders consistent with Beijing’s policy?
• To what extent is local corruption and abuse of power a cause of discontent?
• Is strict control over expressions of dissent advisable? Is it better to risk biased reporting but have a safety valve which could prevent the explosion of tensions?
• Is the government’s strict control over the traditional media advisable? Chinese netizens do not appear to trust the traditional media and are therefore more likely to believe electronic reports despite their possible unreliability. Provocative rumours are easily and quickly spread
• Is there sufficient freedom of language?
• Is there sufficient freedom of religion?
• Is there sufficient freedom of culture?
• Is the government policy of encouraging migration from poorer western regions to richer eastern provinces, so as to provide jobs and close the income gap, advisable, having regard to the huge linguistic, geographic cultural and religious gulf between the newcomers and the local people?
• Is the large influx Han Chinese into these regions beneficial in the long run?
Needless to say, with the effects on the Chinese economy of the global recession, economic hardship increases the risk of discontent.
The impact of the internet and text messaging needs to be taken urgently into account. The recent rioting in Urumqi seems to have been sparked off 4 000 kms away in a toy factory in Guangdong province, where Han Chinese attacked Uighur workers after rumours that they had raped several women. The Xinjiang violence dominates domestic news because the Chinese authorities are forced to report events pro-actively to pre-empt the spread of rumours.
China officially consists of a majority nationality, the Han, and 55 minority groups, numbering over 104 million, or some 9% of the total population.
There are several affirmative action programmes for officially recognized minority groups. Through these, they are entitled to have more children (minorities are generally not bound by the one child policy except in urban areas), pay less taxes, obtain better education for their children (but in Mandarin Chinese), have greater access to public office, speak and learn their native languages, worship and practice their religion, and express their cultural differences. The assessment should examine the effectiveness of these programmes.
Unlike Tibet, Xinjiang is not in the focus of the international media. In fact, the potential danger is greater than that of Tibet. The province comprises a vast area of over 1.6 million sq kms which borders Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, as well as India, Mongolia and Russia. It is rich in oil, gas and coal and is potentially exposed to Jihadist influences.
A principal aim –not only in China – is to persuade peoples to live together, rather than be separated by borders, and to respect each other’s rights. Globalisation does not seem to have had this beneficial effect.Author : Stanley Crossick