V. Equal Rights and Special Protection for Ethnic Minorities
In China, citizens of all ethnic groups enjoy equal rights as stipulated in the Constitution and other laws. Citizens of ethnic minorities also enjoy special rights in accordance with the law.
The state guarantees by law ethnic minorities' equal rights in participation in the administration of state and regional affairs. At present, all 55 ethnic-minority groups have their own deputies to the National Peoples Congress (NPC) and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Ethnic groups with a population of more than one million have members in the NPC Standing Committee. At each past session of NPC, the proportion of ethnic-minority deputies to the total number of deputies was higher than that of the contemporary ethnic-minority population to that of the total national population. The standing committees of people's congresses in all 155 ethnic-minority autonomous areas have chairs or vice-chairs who are citizens of the ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. By 2009 there were over 2.9 million ethnic-minority cadres in China, accounting for 7.4 percent of the nation's total number of cadres. About 9.6 percent of China's public servants were from ethnic minorities.
The state intensifies its support to the development of ethnic-minority areas, and the standard of living of ethnic minorities is steadily improving. In recent years, the state has formulated a series of favorable policies which have effectively propelled the socioeconomic development of ethnic-minority groups and regions. The documents include Opinions on Further Enhancing the Socioeconomic Development of Xinjiang, Opinions on Recent Support for Socioeconomic Development in Tibet, Opinions on Further Improving the Socioeconomic Development of Ningxia and Development Plan for the Guangxi North Bay Economic Zone. In 2009 China invested 1.24 billion yuan for the socioeconomic development of the areas inhabited by ethnic-minority people. In the same year the government invested a total of 780 million yuan, which effectively helped over 80 percent of villages inhabited by ethnic-minority people with smaller population to reach the targets mapped out in the Development Plan for Supporting Smaller Ethnic Minorities (2005-2010). With strengthened efforts for boosting border-region economies, China enlarged the national assistance scope to include 136 border counties and the area of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. In 2009 the state implemented new poverty reduction criteria, enlarged the scope of assistance and carried out comprehensive poverty-alleviation policies for the low-income rural population in the areas inhabited by ethnic-minority people. As a result, the rural population in dire poverty in ethnic-minority areas dropped to over 7.7 million in 2008 from 12.45 million in 2004. In 2009 most of the exceptionally poor villages in ethnic-minority areas had access to roads, power supply, telephones, and radio and TV coverage. They also had schools, clinics, safe drinking water for people and livestock, safe housing, basic farmland or grassland that guarantee adequate food and clothing, and per capita food consumption and per capita net income also reached national poverty-alleviation standards.
Public health care systems in ethnic-minority areas have picked up development speed. From 2004 to 2009 the state invested 4.7 billion yuan in the public health care systems, prevention and control of major diseases, immunization program, health care for women and children, medical personnel training, rural cooperative medical service and traditional ethnic medicine in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. By the end of 2008 some 681 out of 699 counties in the ethnic autonomous areas had implemented the new system. Five autonomous regions and three provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai with large numbers of ethnic-minority inhabitants realized full coverage. The implementation speed of the system in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities overtook that of the national average.
The education level of ethnic minorities keeps increasing. Ethnic-minority areas have established complete education systems from pre-school to higher education, and the period of education for ethnic-minority population has increased significantly. Ninety-eight percent of school-age children in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities attend elementary schools. By the end of 2009 some 686 out of 699 counties in ethnic autonomous areas had realized nine-year compulsory education and met the target of basically eradicating illiteracy among the young and middle-aged population. The other 13 counties have plans to reach these goals in 2010. By 2009 China had altogether 15 institutions of higher learning for ethnic minorities. The number of full-time students at these schools reached 200,000, of whom 60 percent were from ethnic minorities. More than 300 universities and colleges had opened preparatory courses and regular classes for ethnic-minority students, with a total enrollment of 31,000.
The traditional cultures of ethnic minorities are protected and encouraged to develop. At the National Ethnic-minority Cultural Work Meeting in June 2009 the State Council issued the Opinions on Further Developing Ethnic-minority Cultural Undertakings, which outlined the major tasks, targets, and measures for the cultural development of ethnic minorities at present and for the years to come. It is a strong guarantee for further development and prosperity of ethnic-minority culture. Cultural facilities construction in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities is being enhanced. During the 11th Five-year Plan period (2006-2010), China is to provide a 3.857-billion-yuan subsidy to the central and western regions of the country, including 913 million yuan to the five autonomous regions and three provinces with large numbers of ethnic-minority inhabitants and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Through a cultural center construction plan, this subsidy from the government will be used as part of the investment to construct 23,400 comprehensive cultural centers in villages and townships. The state has provided financial aid to renew a large amount of broadcasting and film dubbing equipment for minority languages, has set up 10 minority-language film dubbing centers in Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang, studied and developed state-of-the-art digital technology for film dubbing. The state is strengthening financial support for the maintenance and protection of key cultural relic protection units and the collection of valuable cultural relics in ethnic-minority areas. A special fund of 400 million yuan has been arranged for the protection of over 20 national key relic protection units and ancient sites in Xinjiang during the 11th Five-year Plan period. Currently the number of national key relic protection units in ethnic-minority areas has reached 366, and the Potala Palace, the ancient city of Lijiang and other cultural sites have been included in the UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list. The Muqam music of the Xinjiang Uyghur people, the Mongolian Long Song, the Kam Grand Choir of the Dong people of Guizhou Province, the Epic of King Gesar, the Regong art of Qinghai Province, Tibetan opera, the Manas Epic of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Hoomei singing of the Mongolians, the Hua'er folk songs of Gansu Province, Korean Pungmul dancing, among others, have been included in UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Currently two of the nation's four cultural ecological protection experimental areas feature ethnic-minority cultures. The state has issued the Guiding Opinions on the Experimental Work of Protection and Development of Ethnic-minority Villages and Stockaded Villages, and carried out experiments on the protection and development of villages and stockaded villages with minority features. In 2009 a total of 50 million yuan was invested in experimental work for the protection and development of 121 ethnic-minority villages and stockaded villages.
The ethnic minorities' rights to study, use and develop their own languages are protected. The state effectively guarantees the use of ethnic-minority languages in administrative and judicial work, news media and publications, broadcasting and film, culture and education, and other areas. Examination papers have minority-language versions in the National Matriculation Test. Moreover, China implements bilingual education in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. At present, over 10,000 schools with a total of 6 million students use 29 languages of 21 ethnic groups in classroom teaching.