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Official: China Has No Racial Discrimination
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All ethnic groups in China are equal and no racial discrimination exists, Dainzhub Ongboin, vice director of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC), said on Thursday.

"China's ethnic groups enjoy equal status and live in harmony. There is no discrimination (directed at any ethnicity)," Dainzhub, who is of Tibetan origin, said at a press conference in response to a Reuters reporter who asked whether racial discrimination existed in Chinese society.

China has 55 ethnic minority groups, and the Han people account for more than 90 percent of the country's total population.

"People from different ethnic groups often help each other and their relations are harmonious," he said, adding the central government was investing more money to alleviate poverty in some ethnic minority communities.

"The 56 ethnic groups are like brothers and sisters living in one family," said Dainzhub.

The government aims to extend nine-year compulsory education to more than 95 percent of the ethnic minority population by the end of 2010, as stated in the country's ethnic minorities affairs 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), he said.

The plan, which was approved by the State Council earlier this year, was made public on Thursday.

The government would "do its best to ensure the schooling of each ethnic student," said Dainzhub, adding it was one of his prime concerns as he himself was a poor student many years ago and understood the bitterness of poverty at school.

He said the government would expand the enrollment of ethnic students in high schools and universities and continue to set up Tibetan and Uygur classes in big cities outside Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, both in western China.

More bilingual teachers who can speak both mandarin, China's official language, and an ethnic language, will be dispatched to ethnic regions to improve education and preserve minority languages, under the plan, which also says the number of ethnic minority cadres will be increased.

Ethnic minority medical sciences, such as Mongolian, Uygur, and Tibetan medicine are "a valuable cultural heritage" and should be used "more extensively in ethnic regions,” many of which are remote, said Dainzhub, 52, who is also a Tibetologist and a former dean of the Tibetology department of the Central University for Nationalities.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in his government work report earlier this month that traditional Chinese and ethnic minority medicine should be made a priority for development.

Fifteen ethnic minorities have 195 hospitals specializing in their own ethnic medical science, with 4,853 professional ethnic medicine doctors.

"Ethnic medicine is one third the cost of an urban hospital and half the cost of traditional Chinese medicine," Dainzhub said, adding that ethnic people trust their own medicine.

A mechanism monitoring relations among ethnic groups in China will be built to deal with emergencies resulting from ethnic issues, according to the plan. The monitoring mechanism aims to "clamp down on ethnic separatism so as to safeguard ethnic unity, social stability, and national security."

A sound social environment should be built to ensure the harmonious development of all ethnic groups, Dainzhub told the news briefing, adding the Plan represents a major step in the central government's efforts to develop the country's ethnic minorities.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the crackdown on the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, especially in the western region of the country.

Police in China's western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region crushed a terrorist training camp in January, in which 18 terrorists were killed and 17 others captured.

The training camp was run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group that the United Nations in 2002 labeled a terrorist organization. Leading terrorists in the camp were trained by Taliban and Al-Qaeda representatives and later stole into Xinjiang.

Official statistics show that about 11.7 million rural Chinese living in absolute poverty -- half of the country's total rural absolute poor -- are in ethnic minority regions. About seven percent of the ethnic minority population -- 4.4 percent higher than the national average -- fall under China's poverty line.

Autonomous ethnic regions in China cover more than six million square kilometers, making up about 64 percent of the country's land area, even though members of the 55 ethnic minorities account for only 8.4 percent of the total population.

Most ethnic minority regions are in remote border areas. About 19,000 kilometers of China's 22,000-kilometer border run through ethnic autonomous regions; 107 of 135 border counties are ethnic autonomous, and more than 30 ethnic minorities live "shoulder by shoulder" with the same ethnic groups of China's neighboring countries.

The SEAC, with the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, has invested about one billion yuan (US$128 million) in the regions where 22 Chinese ethnic minorities with populations below 100,000 live.

The Ministry of Finance will allocate about 112 million yuan (US$14.36 million) annually starting this year to support the development of the 22 ethnic groups with a total population of 630,000, including the Ewenki, Oroqen, and Daur in the northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.

"The disappearance of some ethnic groups was a natural process combined with historical reasons," Dainzhub said, adding the government was preventing small minority groups from vanishing by recording their threatened languages and conducting bilingual school education to protect and rescue their cultural heritage.

China will set up a database of threatened ethnic languages and standardize their translation, under the plan, which also calls for more research on the culture of ethnic minorities in Taiwan and the promotion of mutual understanding among ethnic groups across the Taiwan Strait.

"Culture is the soul, the root, and the essence of a people," said Dainzhub. "Its value cannot be measured."

(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2007)

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