1, 1949 the People's Republic of China came into being,
a great family founded in principle on ethnic equality
and unity and on friendship and cooperation among all
Before the advent of the People's Republic
of China, the First Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference, which included representatives of the Mongolian,
Hui, Tibetan, Uygur, Miao, Yi, Manchu, Korean, Bai,
Li, Gaoshan and Ozbek groups, was called in Beijing.
By exercising the functions and powers of the National
People's Congress, the delegates developed a Common
Program which, working as a temporary constitution,
systematically set forth a new policy towards the many
ethnic groups of China.
It stipulated that "all ethnic
groups within the boundaries of the People's Republic
of China are equal. They establish unity and mutual
aid among themselves, and shall oppose imperialism and
public enemies in their midst so that the People's Republic
of China will become a big fraternal and cooperative
family comprising all its ethnic groups. 'Greater nationalism'
and 'local nationalism' should be opposed. Acts of discrimination,
oppression and dividing the various nationalities should
The Common Program also stipulated
that "regional autonomy should be exercised in
areas where ethnic minorities are concentrated.... All
ethnic minorities should have the freedom to develop
their spoken and written languages, and to preserve
or reform their traditions, customs and religious beliefs.
The People's Government shall assist the broad masses
of all ethnic minorities to develop politically, economically,
culturally and educationally."
The policy towards ethnic groups
in the Common Program embodied the basic principles
of the Chinese Communist Party for solving the ethnic
minority problem and represented the common interests
of all ethnic groups in the country. The policy was
later incorporated in the Constitution of the People's
Republic of China, adopted by the First Session of the
First National People's Congress on September 20, 1954.
As stated in the preamble and other relevant articles
of the Constitution, the tasks that the country faced
in its work on ethnic groups during the transitional
period were: to consolidate the unity of the country
and the cooperation of the various ethnic groups in
a common effort to rebuild the motherland; to safeguard
the right of equality between the various ethnic groups
and practice regional autonomy; and to help the ethnic
minorities carry out reforms in their economic, political
and cultural development, so that they could all develop
Shortly after the founding of the People's
Republic, the central government, recognizing that there
still existed misunderstandings and discrimination resulting
from former policies of the old government, conducted
a program of general education on ethnic equality, unity,
mutual help and friendship among the various ethnic
groups. The government also issued a series of laws
and decrees to protect the rights of ethnic minorities
and to eliminate the influence of the former system.
Between 1950 and 1952, four delegations
were sent by the central government to visit the ethnic
minorities in various parts of the country. During their
journeys they informed the local people about the new
policy towards groups in the minority areas. In the
meantime, delegations were also organized by the various
minorities to visit Beijing and other places.
From 1949 to 1964, the central government
sent 13 delegations into the minority areas to convey
greetings to the people. Furthermore, during this time,
268 delegations of ethnic minorities comprising approximately
10,000 people, met leaders of the central authorities.
By demonstrating the relationship between the central
authorities and people of the various minorities, these
contacts helped foster understanding and strengthening
of friendship between the Hans and people of various
ethnic minority groups.
In May 1951, the central government
issued a directive that all signs, place names, tablet
inscriptions and billboards carrying derogatory terms
or showing discrimination against minority group should
either be changed or removed.
In 1952, the central government issued
the "Decision Protecting People of All Ethnic Minorities
Living in Scattered Groups to Enjoy the Right of Equality."
It stipulated that all minority people living in scattered
groups have all the rights their Han counterparts enjoy
and a greater representation in state organs, with practical
measures to be taken by local governments in their respective
localities; and that they have the right to preserve
or change their way of life, customs and religious beliefs.
In order to help the minority people
take part in the management of state affairs and to
ensure their participation in government administration
at all levels, the National People's Congress adopted
an Electoral Law stipulating that each ethnic minority
living in a compact community would be represented at
the People's Congress of that locality. According to
this law, when the total population of a minority group
living in a compact community or in scattered groups
represents less than 10 per cent of the total population
in a locality, the number of inhabitants represented
by each deputy from the minority group may be less than
half that represented by other deputies to the local
People's Congress. Elections could be held separately
or jointly to have minority deputies elected, taking
account of the population composition and the relationship
between various ethnic groups in respective localities.
Added to the Electoral Law was a new
provision formulated by the 5th National People's Congress
in 1979. It states that even a minority group with an
exceptionally small population "shall have at least
one deputy" to the National People's Congress.
Among the deputies to the People's
Congresses at all levels and the National People's Congress,
the proportion of ethnic representatives generally exceeds
that of the Han population of a specific locality, so
that generally every minority group, including those
with a population of under 1,000, is represented at
the national and local People's Congresses.
In some minority areas, there was considerable
resistance to the ethnic unity trend the government
hoped to foster, with Hans and minorities both asserting
their own cultural superiority. A specific problem was
found among Han officials, who often expressed contempt
for the ethnic communities in which they worked. In
1952-53, and again in 1956, the central government conducted
a nationwide educational program on the minority equality
policy, at the same time investigating the measures
taken to implement it.