Process of Ethnic Policy

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Process of Ethnic Policy - What's happening in East Turkistan

The initial Ethnic policy bookmark

After the collapse of Qing dynasty caused by Xinhai Revolution in 1911, ethnic groups in each region hoped for the independence. However, Sun Yat-sen, the provisional president of Republic of China at that time, appealed solidarity of ethnic groups and advocated "Five Races Under One Union". It was to unite Han, Manchu, Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan lands as one nation and peoples as one people. It meant each ethnic group was to work equally and collectively yet it also meant the separation or independence was to be refused.

The principle "Five Races Under One Union" was gradually switched to Chiang Kai-shek's Han chauvinism during the Second Sino-Japanese War to lift up the nationalism of the people. Han chauvinism is based on the belief that non-Han ethnics are the branch families of Hans'. The remote regions were managed following the theory '5,000 years of Chinese history is the record of each ethnic group in China, thus all the ethnic groups in China are to be one people, the Chinese nation, to make the eternal history of China'.
Chinese Communist party approved the self-determination of the ethnic minorities and it was done so as it intended to introduce a federal system. But after the Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War, the integration of the nation was progressed and Chinese Communist Party who came into the power refused the self-determination and secession rights. Introduction of federal system was shifted to introduction of regional ethnic autonomy policy.

In early time, People's Republic of China paid due attention to treat ethnic problems
and set essential principle of 'Ethnic policy' as follows.

  • Each ethnic group is equal
  • Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are prohibited
  • The people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs
  • In regional autonomous region organs of self-government are established for the exercise of the right of autonomy

Though the rights above are recognized, it was clear that each region was definitely a part of People's Republic of China.

As a part of Regional autonomy of ethnic minority, Chinese communist party had investigations to identify the ethnic groups. Though there were only 5 ethnic minorities were recognized, the number grew to 10 in the early years of establishment and eventually the number grew up to 55. However the classification was very ambiguous and some ethnic groups that did not have their own spoken or written languages were considered to be in the same league as the ethnic groups that had had their own culture, language and history such as Uyghurs and Tibetans.
Although under normal circumstance, the autonomous region should have high percentage of the ethnic minority living within it, the autonomous demarcation was set to include large area where Hans were living and avoid the area where one ethnic were living intensively. The political plot of the ethnic policy can be imagined from above. Yet the ethnic policy in early 1950's had its problems, it attracted the residents more than the previous regime and succeeded to integrate the people there in some measure.

Fierce suppression: Ethnic policy during The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution bookmark

During The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, Ethnic policy itself disappeared and radical ethnic policy was displaced to suppress the minorities. The economy was integrated during The Great Leap Forward and ideology was integrated (ethnic minorities' assimilation into the Hans). The ethnic policy was watered-down and autonomous regions were impoverished economically and culturally.
In 1957, Mao Zedong carried out a purge of dissident, so-called Anti-Rightist Movement. It was done under the name of battle against nationalism (of minorities) in minority nationality regions. The theory "ethnic problems are all about class problem"at that time imputed problems about ethnos to the class problems and it gradually caused a cognition that autonomy and preferential treatment for ethnic minorities are unnecessary among people.

Under The Great Leap Forward, the big production increase policy for agro-industry, economic integration was carried forward in minority nationality regions. (Incidentally, The Great Leap Forward was a big failure and it is said that there were 20 to 50 millions of people died from starvation.)
It was Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps that took a great part in economic integration in East Turkistan. It was consisted of the former servicemen of People's Liberation Army stationed at military takeover and middle school leavers recruited from the central. Most of the members were Hans. With the enormous economy and military backup, they seized underground mineral resources and half of the agricultural land in East Turkistan calling themselves "great army of productions of agricultural, pasturage, forestry, by-business and fishery".
Suppression against religions started from this time. Any religious activity was prohibited on marriage or education, the temples were not to have any factor of production, voluntary activities or donation called "exploitation" were banned, any religious activity that may cut across the output of the state, coerce of religion and religious punishment for the believers.
Though Mao Zedong had lost substantive power, struggle for power continued in the Central and Lin Biao and the Gang of Four carried out 'Cultural Revolution' to let Mao Zedong seize back the power once again. Violent mass movement promoted by the ruling circle attacked bourgeoisie and intellectuals including entrepreneurs, scholars and medical doctors. A number of human resources and cultural assets were victimized and damaged and the dead and missing people are estimated between several millions to tens of millions.
For the security of Sino-Indian War (1959-62) and Sino-Soviet Split (1960), Cultural Revolution on ethnic matter was conducted ahead of other classes. Remote regions bordering Soviet Union and Mongolia are especially positioned as frontlines of ideology battle.
All the ethnic policies including racial preference policy and language and cultural policy in autonomous regions were dismissed and ethnic cadremen were persecuted by false accusation in order to strengthen the governance of Han people. The elimination of ethnic policy article from the Constitution of the People's Republic of China in 1975 empitomizes the disappearance of ethnic policies at that time. Autonomy of the minorities, prohibition of discrimination against and oppression of a particular ethnos, freedom to preserve or reform their own ways and customs, local government finance and official use of the ethnic languages were vanished.
As for the duel with 'revisionism' of Soviet Union, the religions were denied completely following the extreme Marxism. Churches, temples and religious cultural assets were destroyed and clergies and monks were imprisoned and murdered.
Those brutal suppression continued until death of Mao Zedong and ousting of the Gang of Four that ended the Cultural Revolution.

Economic reform in the People's Republic of China and growing ethnonationalism bookmark

Cultural Revolution, the storm of suppression and the purge, was over and Economic reform in the People's Republic of China was carried out and ethnic policy was regenerated by Deng Xiaoping and the President of the Communist party, Hu Yaobang. The ethnic policy basically followed the one in the 50's, before the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.
Religious activities prohibited during the Cultural Revolution were brought back and various religious organizations were resurgent. The number of people outstanding to the tendency of being realistic caused by the decay of ideology and growth of economy and leaned on the religious grew.
East Turkistan was not the exception and Islamic renaissance movement broke out and the strongest backlash was the one against birth control for the religious reason. After the mosques and ethnic schools were reopened, the number of students attending Han schools decreased drastically and the government seemed to be appalled.
In 1984, Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law was established. This basically followed the ethnic policy that was enacted at the founding of state in 1950's, though this time it showed more consideration for the minorities by giving more priorities on various matters including the resources exploitation.

In late 1980's, the growth of worldwide ethnonationalism brought the ethnic problems to the light. The collapse of Soviet Union, independence of countries in Middle Asia and growing nationalism and democratic movements in Inner Mongolia incited the ethnic minorities in China.
As ethnonationalism grew across borders and international community started to recognize ethnic policies as human rights issue, national congress of East Turkistan, Inner Mongolia and so on were held outside of China.

In 1992, First East Turkistan National Assembly (then called 'East Turkistan World National Congress) was convened and the following declaration statements were adopted.

1. Our homeland is East Turkistan
2. National flag and emblem
3. We refuse Chinese colonialism, communist policy, the assertion that 'East Turkistan is part of China' and the assimilation
4. Only by independence we can gain freedom and happiness
5. We align ourselves with Tibet and Inner Mongolia
6. We request United Nations, Human Rights organizations and Islamic organizations to put pressure on China

In April 2004, East Turkistan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress merged into united organization, World Uyghur Congress. It was established to unite and organize the activities of the East Turksitan organizations all over the world. Currently there are 49 organization joining it. As the first President, Erkin Alptekin, the son of Isa Yusuf Alptekin was elected and in 2006, Rabiye Qadir was elected as second President and she has been taking the place until now. Without bringing the issue of independence to the fore, they set their main objective as 'to promote the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Trukistan'.
East Turksitan government in exile was established in Washington in September 2004. In November they effectuate the constitution and they have been claiming the legitimacy of being the exiled regime. East Turkistan government in exile and World Uyghur Congress act individually.
There have been numerous ethnic strifes and conflicts since late 1980's especially in Tibet and East Turkistan.
Followings are picked up from East Turkistan only.
The uprising of peasants in Barin, Aquto is said to be caused by the conflict of mosque construction and the backlash for the birth control. It is said that the People's Liberation Army used air force and bombed that area to quell the riot. There were a mass of victims. According to Amnesty International, 50 were dead and 600 were accused of crime of counter-revolution.
There were frictions over religious issues in Hotan, July 1995, in Kashgar and Kucha April to May 1997.
The largest confrontation in Yining (Gulja) on 5th February 1997 killed numerous. Though it started as a peaceful demonstration, military security killed more than 100 people at the spot. A few thousands people were accused of joining the demo in the following weeks and a few hundreds were executed.

Current status of East Turkistan bookmark

Chinese government condemns the ethnic separatism and spilittism for the rise of ethnonationalism and conflicts caused by the ethnic and religious issues. To deal with the circumstances above, the government has conducted campaigns that grow the patriotism, severe punishment for the ethnic separatists, regulations on the religious activities and promotion of economic developments. Strike-Hard campaign supposed to be held against general criminals is being exploited as an excuse to suppress the so-called 'separatists'.
Religious activities and practice places are again restricted and management and surveillance of the religious organizations are tightened. Religious tests for the Muslim clergies and communist party members are not allowed to have any religion. Judiciary, education, family planning and cultural entertainment are not to have any trace of religious issue.
Accordingly, the Constitution announced in 1982, Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law that promised the equality of the ethnic groups, autonomy, respect for the cultures and languages are no longer effective.
Universities precluded the lectures in Uyghur language first and now secondary and elementary schools hold classes in Chinese language.
China is desploing the natural resources from East Turkistan under the pretext of economic development and Han people are encouraged to move in to the region. While taking away the culture and language of Uyghur, they are also pursuing the assimilation. Although the percentage of Han people living in East Turkistan at the establishment of People's Republic of China was only 6%, now it is reaching 40% and this number backs up the situation above.
After the September 11, 2001, China tried to set the excessive suppression in East Turkistan as a part of struggle against terrorists. This attempt succeeded as the mass opinion of US and the fact that some Uyghurs had joined the civil war in Afghanistan supported it.
Although the ethnic policy has been changing its style and effectiveness with time, it is leading the ethnic minorities to assimilate with the inundant majority and the ruler, the Han people, after all.

In East Turkistan, people, especially Uyghurs, who long for the freedom and human rights for ethnic minorities have been suppressed being labeled as:

"Reactionists" and "Rightists" in 1950's and 1960's,
"Counter-revolutionists" in 1970's and 1980's,
"Ethnic separatists" and "Spilitists" in 1990's,
and "Terrorists" since 2001.

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