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More Aid for Ethnic Minorities

Over half a million people from the nation's ethnic minorities are to benefit from increased funding and training, central government said yesterday.

Officials from the ethnic affairs ministry said that around 630,000 people from 22 ethnic minority groups will benefit from additional financial aid, though the total amount was undisclosed, and employment training schemes made available.

According to the government, one out of four people in these 22 groups do not have enough food and clothing, and senior officials said one of the goals of the new program was to rectify this.

Lan Bujin, an official from the State Ethnic Affairs Commission's Economic Department, said investment would be "increased by a large margin."

The announcement comes after a six-year development programme (2005-10) was established last week by the State Council targeting ethnic minority groups with fewer than 100,000 people.

"We are now working with other central government departments, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications and state-owned banks, to decide the investment scale in regions inhabited by these groups," said Lan.

Li Wenliang, spokesperson of the commission, said the program was needed because the recipients live in "remote areas where natural conditions are harsh and the social development level is low."

The 22 minorities are: Maonan, Salar, Blang, Tajik, Achang, Pumi, Ewenki, Nu, Jing, Jino, De'ang, Baoan, Russian, Yugur, Uzbek, Monba, Oroqen, Drung, Tatar, Hezhe, Gaoshan and Lhoba.

They live in 640 villages in 10 provinces and autonomous regions including Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Xinjiang, Li said. Sixteen of the minorities are located along frontier areas.

China has 56 recognized ethnic groups, of which Han is the largest, accounting for 93.3 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people.

During 2002-04, central government allocated 117 million yuan (US$14 million) to develop local infrastructure as well as improve education and health conditions in these regions, Li said.

"The investment in the next five years will be much more than this figure," said Lan, noting that priority will be given to developing infrastructure, such as roads, water and power facilities.

Local people are also expected to benefit from the increased investment by learning skills to improve production and getting more access to education and public health services, Lan said.

Liang Dachao, secretary-general of the Association for Underdeveloped Regions in China, said yesterday that the help extended to these groups helps China in striving to build a "harmonious society."

His association, with hundreds of companies as its members, is encouraging more enterprises to invest in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.

(China Daily May 24, 2005)

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