|Human Rights In
China and Minority Rights Group International
|April 25, 2007
EMBARGOED - London 2 PM, New
York 9 AM, Hong Kong 9 PM
China's massive economic development strategy,
touted to benefit rural ethnic groups in its western regions, in
practice excludes, marginalizes, and masks the increased
repression of ethnic minority groups such as Mongols, Tibetans,
and Uyghurs, according to a new report by Minority Rights Group
International (MRG) and Human Rights in China (HRIC).
The new report,
Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions,
examines China's autonomy system, and how despite formal
guarantees of self-governance and minority protections for
ethnic groups, the system functions as a mechanism of exclusion
and control. Systemic violations of civil and political rights
occur in tandem with increasing exclusion of ethnic minorities
from a top-down policy of economic development, especially
evident in Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur autonomous regions.
Instead of benefiting the rural ethnic minorities, China's
economic development strategy implements a politicized policy
agenda of resource extraction, assimilation through population
transfers and militarization.
The report contains information from a diverse
pool of sources, including Tibetan refugees, students, farmers,
trade professionals, unemployed persons, former political
prisoners, and NGO field workers, as well as references to
Chinese law, official documents and publications.
Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC says, "The serious
situations of these three ethnic groups tend to be marginalized
in the current debates and assessment of China's overall human
rights situation, contributing to a dangerous historical
amnesia." She adds, "It can't be forgotten that President Hu
Jintao presided over crackdowns in the Tibet Autonomous Region
while he was Party Secretary there."
MRG and HRIC point out that instead of helping to build the
'harmonious' society announced by the current regime, China's
policy and practice towards ethnic groups undermines true social
harmony and stability. This needs to be built upon equitable and
sustainable development, and the respect for freedom of
religious and cultural expression.
"China must provide genuine autonomy and ensure that minorities
have the right to participate meaningfully in decisions which
affect them," says Zoe Gray, MRG's conflict prevention officer.
"The government must ensure that the benefits from the country's
rapid development are shared fairly with minorities."
This report comes at a time when there is
heightened international scrutiny of China in the lead-up to the
Olympics, and China's own interests in the international
community are increasing.
HRIC and MRG believe that in order for China to become a
respected member of the international community, it must adhere
to its international obligations and protect and promote the
rights of communities in practise, not only on paper.
The report includes a set of recommendations to promote greater
transparency, inclusive political participation, equitable
development and the preservation of cultural identity.
About Minority Rights Group International
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental
organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious
and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
About Human Rights in
Human Rights in China (HRIC) is an international monitoring and
advocacy non-governmental organization based in New York, Hong
Kong, and Brussels. Founded in March 1989 by Chinese students
and scholars, it conducts research, education and outreach
programs to promote international human rights and advance the
institutional protection of these rights in the People's
Republic of China.
For additional information or to conduct
interviews with MRG and HRIC representatives please contact:
Emma Eastwood (MRG London) on +44 (0)207 4224205 (office) or +44
(0)7989 699984 (mobile)
Stacy Mosher (HRIC, New York) on +1 (212) 239-4495 (office)
Carol Wang (HRIC, New York) on +1 (212) 239-4495 (office)
Roseann Rife (HRIC, Hong Kong) + 852-2710-8021 (office)
China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and
April 25, 2007
A report by Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Commissioned by Minority Rights Group International (MRG)
Download entire report
executive summary [PDF]
The issues at a glance:
China's increasing engagement with the international community
in recent years has been accompanied by rapid domestic social
and economic changes. Although the People's Republic of China (PRC)
is now an active participant in multilateral forums and
processes of international human rights law, its policies
continue to undermine human rights, especially that of
This report documents the serious impediments to the fulfillment
of China's human rights obligations, in the areas of ethnic
minority political participation, development, and preservation
of cultural identity. Given the destabilizing levels of social
unrest and protests, generated by inequality and human rights
violations, the PRC government has real incentives to find
sustainable, lasting solutions to the discontent of petitioners,
human rights defenders, activists, and ethnic minorities. Its
responses, however, have been violent and repressive, not only
in ethnic minority areas but also against its Han Chinese
majority. This is evidence that the current wave of repression
against minorities has wider implications on the human rights
situation for all. Minority individuals face particular attacks
as a result of their ethnic identity, but are not the only
targets of PRC control and suppression. Consequently, the
protection of rights for these ethnic minority groups is a piece
of the larger framework of institutional human rights
protection, which is essential in building a peaceful society.
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS
Legal framework: International obligations and PRC law
The PRC is not adequately protecting the legal rights of ethnic
minorities, despite an existing domestic framework for ethnic
autonomy, as well as its obligations to respect, protect,
promote and fulfill international human rights law.
comply with international obligations:
International law stipulates that constitutional and
legislative protections must be enacted, and that China must
ensure the implementation of these rights. Although many laws,
regulations, policies and statements address the importance of
equality among Chinese ethnic groups, the PRC is not meeting
its international obligations on minority rights for the
Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs.
the LREA and its implementation:
Implementation of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy (LREA)
and other state policies has failed to protect minorities'
unique cultures, as a result of 1) gaps between central
policies and local implementation, 2) the lack of a legal
definition of discrimination, 3) the lack of systematic and
effective monitoring and assessment of implementation, and 4)
poor institutional capacity. LREA implementation must also
address the obstacles facing the overall development of a rule
of law in China, including the lack of accountability and
transparency, and independence from the Communist Party of
Limited and ineffectual political participation
Despite the PRC's obligations to implement international human
rights law, and its own framework of autonomous governance,
minorities are unable to exercise real political decision-making
that has an impact on their own communities.
As a result of severe gaps between law and
practice, there are major
weaknesses in the
PRC's ethnic autonomy arrangements.
because of limited access to the CPC, ethnic minority
individuals cannot participate in real decision-making.
overall growth of domestic civil society
mean that opportunities for ethnic individuals to form
organizations around cultural or political interests are
government's violations of civil and political rights,
exacerbate the vulnerable situation of minorities in China.
Given the government's intolerance of critical
views and rejection of political reforms, the prospects for
meaningful political participation are limited - not only for
ethnic minorities but for everyone living within China's
Inequitable and discriminatory development
Although there have been attempts to address the growing
disparities within its borders, China's rapid economic
transformation has not improved the lives of ethnic minorities
continue to be sharp inequalities in basic social services,
such as education and health, while income and unemployment
comparisons show that persons belonging to ethnic groups fall
behind national averages and those for Han Chinese.
The costs of
inequitable development are high for those living in rural
areas, and political exclusion from the process means that
solutions are not necessarily made in the best interest of
local ethnic minorities.
Development Strategy (WDS), targeting the western provinces
and autonomous regions, is intended to 'modernize' these areas
and narrow the development gap between the interior and the
wealthier coastal provinces. Given the potential for
discontent in such inequitable situations, however, the WDS
is widely seen as a political tool for strengthening national
unity through 'common prosperity'. Its official
development goals are undermined by three unspoken but
overarching objectives—resource extraction from the
borderlands to benefit the coast, assimilation of local ethnic
minority groups through Han Chinese population transfers to
the autonomous areas, and the alternate purpose of
infrastructure development for military use.
These policies and the failure of the government
to address the resulting inequalities and discrimination
contribute to the violations of human rights for ethnic
Inadequate protection of cultural identity
As the object of integrationist policies, which are comprised of
political, economic and social elements, minorities are under
continual threat, both officially-sanctioned and otherwise. Han
Chinese settlers now dominate the urban public sphere in
autonomous regions, making it difficult for minorities to
maintain distinct cultural identities.
Decreased use of
local languages in the public
sphere, as well as the imposition of Mandarin, means that
ethnic minority children have limited access to native
language or cultural education.
availability of ethnic language or cultural education is
compounded by an aggressive campaign of Chinese nationalist
'patriotic education', instituted in primary and secondary
schools, in addition to centers of religious learning such as
monasteries and mosques.
These attempts to assimilate ethnic minorities is
occurring in tandem with systematic violations of civil and
political rights, making it nearly impossible for ethnic
individuals to express their cultural identities publicly.
Linking conflict with political participation, inequitable
development, and protection of cultural identity
Although this report focuses on Mongols, Tibetans, and Uyghurs,
instances of conflict are occurring with increasing frequency
across China—not just among these minority groups but also among
the Han Chinese. As a result, minority rights protection has
implications for wider human rights issues across China. The
government is willing to suppress any individual or group—not
just minorities—who are perceived as threats to the integrity of
the PRC. However, the ethnic status of Mongols, Tibetans and
Uyghurs makes them especially vulnerable to the mechanisms of
This report identifies three key potential causes of conflict
for these groups:
ineffectual political participation,
discriminatory development, and
protection of cultural identity.
Sustainable solutions must be adopted if a
stable, peaceful society is the ultimate goal. Such a society
can only be achieved in China if minorities and other
individuals and groups are empowered to voice their opinions.
Opportunities must be created for ethnic groups to participate
in governance, and also in the creation of a civil society.
Development policy must focus on the local population—both in
planning and in project implementation, so that benefits are
shared evenly. At the same time, adequate minority rights
protections must be in place, so that expressions of cultural
identity are encouraged rather than stifled or attacked. Only
when these issues can be resolved peacefully within the context
of respect for human rights, will the PRC rhetoric about China's
'harmonious society' become a reality.
The international community has a critical role in the promotion
of minority rights protections inside China. International
organizations, governments, multinational corporations, and
civil society groups should continue to engage the Chinese
government in substantive dialogue on the issue of human rights
and political reforms to increase transparency and
accountability, through monitoring and pressure. International
cooperation and further engagement should take into serious
consideration this report's recommendations, which are directed
at the PRC government, in the following areas:
promises to the international community
protection against discrimination
transparency and access to information
and inclusive political participation
and non-discriminatory development
preservation of cultural identity
Download the entire report