were established in areas where minority groups lived
in compact communities. These governments, apart from
exercising the functions and powers of normal state
bureaucracies, also exercise the functions and powers
of autonomous self-government within the limits prescribed
by the Constitution and state laws.
Organs of self-government are formed
mainly of personnel of the majority ethnic groups, with
a proper representation from other ethnic groups in
the area where they live. Self-governments in autonomous
areas use one or several languages commonly used by
the minority groups in the localities concerned.
In performing their duties, the self-governments
give full consideration to the traditions, characteristics
and customs of the minority groups, enacting specific
autonomous regulations and local laws.
In managing financial matters, the
self-governments in the autonomous areas enjoy greater
financial power than other local governments at the
same level. In 1984, the Second Session of the Sixth
National People's Congress adopted a law on regional
autonomy. The law takes into account the characteristics
and special needs of the country's autonomous areas
and ensures the full exercise of autonomy by organs
of self-government which have bigger decision-making
powers than other local governments.
Clauses in the law on training minority
personnel will help raise the proportion of minority
officials and workers in autonomous areas.
China formulated its policy on ethnic
minority regional autonomy in light of the following
actual conditions in the country: 1) China is a united,
multi-ethnic group country where close political, economic
and cultural ties have long existed among its various
2) The Han people are the most numerous,
while the minority groups inhabit vast regions rich
in natural resources. Over the breadth of history, the
people of various ethnic groups have come to live together
with the Han people living mainly in the interior.
3) In the hundred years or so before
the founding of the People¡¯s Republic of China, people
of all ethnic groups shared a common misfortune, being
subjected to outside aggression and domestic oppression.
The policy of national autonomy proceeds
from the cooperation and mutual assistance of China's
ethnic groups in bringing about their common prosperity.
May 1, 1947 saw the founding of the
Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the earliest and then
the largest autonomous region in China. In 1952 the
government promulgated the "Program of the People's
Republic of China for Implementing Regional Ethnic Autonomy"
and, by 1953, 47 national autonomous areas at the county
level and below had been established. By the end of
1958, regional autonomy was in effect for over 90 per
cent of the population in minority areas.
Tibet formally inaugurated the Tibet
Autonomous Region in 1965. By the end of 1985, China
had five autonomous regions at the provincial level,
31 autonomous prefectures, and 96 autonomous counties
and autonomous "banners."
Regional national autonomy is designed
to ensure the right of autonomy not only for ethnic
people living in considerable numbers in dense communities,
but also for those living in small communities. A minority
people may have several autonomous areas in accordance
with their distribution. These autonomous areas established
by the various minority groups, whether large in population
or small, have put an end to the centuries-long deprivation
of their political rights. Living in the ethnic autonomous
areas the people of minority groups are now ensured
an equal status in the political life of the state,
and the right to manage their own affairs.
The key to exercising regional ethnic
autonomy lies in training large numbers of minority
officials. Familiar with the histories, languages, customs
and wishes of people of their own ethnic group, they
provide the best link for the government to maintain
communications with the various minority groups.
Since 1951, a number of colleges for
minority students were inaugurated in Beijing as well
as in the country's Northwest, Southwest, Central South
and provinces with a big concentration of ethnic minorities.
The central government not only respects
the spoken and written languages of the ethnic minority
groups but helps them use and develop them. After the
founding of the People's Republic, minority language
research institutions were established at the central
level and in various minority areas. Language courses
were offered at institutes for ethnic minority groups
and at ethnic minority schools in the minority areas.
Many people were trained for scientific research, translation
and the teaching of minority languages.
In 1956 the state organized a language
investigation team that included more than 700 language
experts to carry out a large-scale scientific investigation
into the languages of 33 minorities living in 16 provinces
and autonomous regions of the country. In line with
the policy of "following the will and decision
of the minorities" and facilitating their development
and prosperity, an effort was made to help the Zhuang,
Yi, Bouyei, Miao, Dong, Hani, Lisu, Li, Va and Naxi
peoples develop their own written scripts on the basis
of the Latin alphabet. Moreover, on the basis of two
different dialects in Xishuangbanna and Dehong, two
schemes were designed for the Dai people to change their
script. The Jingpo and Lahu peoples were also assisted
in improving their written scripts. The original written
languages of Uygurs, Kazaks and Yis are still in common
The government has specified that self-governments
in autonomous regions should use the respective spoken
and written languages, and that the written languages
of various ethnic groups should be used in the election
of deputies to the People's Congresses. Citizens of
every ethnic group also have the right to use their
own spoken and written languages in legal proceedings,
and the commonly used languages in the minority areas
should be used for interrogation, announcement of court
verdicts, notices, bulletins and other legal documents.
Respect is given to languages being used by the minorities
in daily life. These languages are also used in minority
area schools and in local news releases, broadcasts
and book publishing. The ethnic languages are used in
books, newspapers and magazines published by central
publishing departments and publishers in the autonomous
areas. At the present time Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur,
Kazak and Korean are used daily by the Central People's
Broadcasting Station in programs beamed to those areas.
Radio programs are also produced with one or several
minority languages by regional and prefectural broadcasting
stations in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Jilin, Heilongjiang,
Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu.