VII. Guarantee of the Rights of Ethnic Minorities
In China, all ethnic groups are equal and the state guarantees the legal rights and interests of all ethnic minorities, safeguards and promotes the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all ethnic groups. A national minorities regional autonomy system is practiced in places where ethnic minorities gather and live. Minority nationals take the posts of chairmen of the autonomous regions, commissioners of the autonomous prefectures and the autonomous counties magistrates. As many as possible of the other leading posts in the autonomous governments are also taken by the nationals or other minorities. The ethnic minorities in the autonomous areas are entitled to use and develop their own languages, keep or reform their folk customs, and be free in their religious beliefs.
The state continues its assistance policy toward the economic growth in ethnic minority areas, by providing funding, technology and personnel to accelerate these regions' economic progress and to upgrade the people's living standard. In 1996, the overall growth rate of the five autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, Guangxi and Ningxia was noticeably higher than the country's average, with the GDP rising by over ten percent and the income of the regions' urban and rural residents rising markedly. The regions' per capita income of the farmers was also increasing at a far quicker pace than the country's average. Inner Mongolia's GNP reached 98.3 billion yuan in 1996, a 12.4 percent increase over 1995. The per capita income of the region's farmers and herdsmen was 1,602 yuan, a practical increase of 14.8 percent, while the urban per capita income was 3,101 yuan. Last year, Tibet's GNP was registered at 6.453 billion yuan, ten percent higher than in 1995. The per capita income of the region's urban dwellers was 5,036 yuan, 25.9 percent higher than 1995, while the rural people's per capita income reached 960 yuan, an increase of 9.3 percent. The 1996 GNP for Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was 97.9 billion yuan, an increase of nine percent over the previous year. The urban dwellers' per capita income was 4,250 yuan, an increase of 10.6 percent, while the farmers' and herdsmen's per capita income was 1,300 yuan, a rise of 14.4 percent. The savings deposits of the region's urban and rural residents reached 57.579 billion yuan, an increase of 20.8 percent.
The Ninth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Outline for the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2010, passed in March 1996, decided to accelerate the development in the central and western parts of China, which are home to most of the country's minority population. Measures in these plans include: giving priority to arrangement of the resource exploration and infrastructure projects in the central and western regions; readjusting the locations of processing industries, and shifting the resource processing and labor-intensive industries to the central and western regions; readjusting the prices for products of a resource nature and enhancing the self-development capability of the central and western regions; gradually increasing the financial support to the central and western regions; accelerating the reform pace of the central and west; increasing the ratio of the country's policy-oriented loans in the central and western regions; continuing to organize various departments of the central government, all walks of life and the eastern coastal areas to provide more assistance in various forms to aid Tibet and other minority areas. In 1996, numerous key projects were completed or launched in minority areas. For instance, the Liangjiang international airport in Guilin, a major city in Guangxi, has been completed and put into operation. Work on a three-billion-yuan irrigation project was started last May in Ningxia which aims to give one million poverty-stricken people of the Hui ethnic group enough food and clothing, while construction started last September on the western section of the Southern Xinjiang Railway line. The state has continued to give Tibet special assistance. In 1996, the 62 aid-Tibet projects designated by the state in 1994 were given another 1.4 billion yuan in funding. The state also added 151 more relief projects for Tibet, involving a total investment of 490 million yuan. Ministries and commissions of the central government and some provinces and cities sent more than 150 work teams to Tibet on investigative missions and worked out a 10-year assistance plan for the region. At present, 56 out of the 62 assistance projects have been completed and put into operation, involving 3.53 billion yuan. This has improved the backwardness of transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure facilities in Tibet and directly benefitted the more than one million people there.
The Chinese government has, as always, paid great attention on the educational and cultural development of the ethnic minority areas, and respected and safeguarded the traditional culture of the minorities. Last year, Tibet focused more of its investment on its education programs, and set up or renovated 87 primary and middle schools, with the school enrollment rate reaching 73.5 percent for school-age children, 3.1 percent"iage points higher than that of 1995. In 1996, 98.16 percent of the school-age children in Guangxi entered school, bringing the total number of the region's primary school pupils to 6.395 million. Also last year, the large, modern and multi-functional Tibet Autonomous Region Library, the world's highest in altitude, was completed and opened to the public. The translation into Chinese of the Manass, one of China's three great epics and an epic of the Kirgiz people in Xinjiang long known as a ``national treasure,'' was nearly completed.
The progress China made in its human rights undertakings in 1996 has once again proved that China always places top priority on its people's right to subsistence and development. Under the conditions of reform, development and stability, strengthening the democratic and legal systems and giving human rights a comprehensive push are in line with the Chinese circumstances and in the fundamental interests of the Chinese people. This has turned out to be a great success in practice.
The improvement of human rights is a continuously developing process along with the political, economic and cultural progress. China, as a developing country, is restricted by its historical and realistic conditions, and the country's human rights conditions still have room for further improvement. The Chinese government and people will continue to try every means possible to help the people enjoy human rights in a broader space and at a higher level.