> Document
Freedom of religious beliefs honored in Xinjiang

Updated: 2009-09-22 08:27

In Xinjiang, political equality for the various ethnic groups is realized mainly through the system of ethnic regional autonomy. Under the unified leadership of the state, implementing ethnic regional autonomy in place where ethnic minorities live in compact communities to allow them to manage their own internal affairs is a basic policy for China to resolve ethnic problems; it is also an important political system of China. Founded in 1955, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is an ethnic autonomous area with the Uygurs as the principal body of the local population. Within the territory of the autonomous region, there also exist areas where other minorities live in compact communities. Thus, five autonomous prefectures for four ethnic groups - the Kazak, Hui, Kirgiz and Mongolian - have been established, in addition to six autonomous counties for five ethnic groups - the Kazak, Hui, Mongolian, Tajik and Xibe, and 43 ethnic townships. Xinjiang is the country's only autonomous region with autonomous areas at all three administrative levels (region, prefecture and county). When it comes to the composition of deputies to the people's congresses and the appointment of cadres, the region's autonomous organs at each level have adhered to the principles of equal participation and common management, so as to ensure that all peoples become masters of the country. In light of actual conditions, these organs shall formulate and implement autonomous laws, local laws, and decisions of legal force, to safeguard their rights of autonomy in accordance with the law. By the end of 2008, the people's congress of the autonomous region and its standing committee had altogether enacted 127 local laws and regulations, and approved 28 statutory resolutions and decisions, and approved 100 local laws and regulations formulated by Urumqi City and the governments of the various autonomous prefectures and counties.

The state and the autonomous region have always considered the selection, training and employment of cadres from among ethnic minorities to be a key to carrying out the policy of ethnic regional autonomy. A large number of outstanding cadres of minority origin have been trained and fostered by being sent out for study, receiving training, working at the grassroots level, or at different places through job exchanges or on rotation basis. In this way, the numbers of cadres have increased, their overall quality improved, ensuring corresponding percentages of such cadres at various levels and categories. The number of Xinjiang's cadres from minority ethnic groups was 46,000 in 1955, 67,000 in 1965, 93,000 in 1975, 202,000 in 1985, 272,000 in 1995, 340,000 in 2005 and 363,000 in 2008. The last figure accounts for 51.25% of the total number of cadres in Xinjiang. In today's Xinjiang, the heads of the autonomous region, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties, as well as the heads of the standing committees of local people's congresses, the presidents of the people's courts and the procurator-generals of the people's procuratorates at corresponding levels are citizens from the ethnic group(s) exercising regional autonomy in the areas concerned. An overwhelming number of the heads at the prefecture and city levels are citizens of ethnic minority origin.

The government of the autonomous region has adopted a variety of special policies and measures to implement and protect all its peoples' equal rights in political and social life. Promulgated in 1993 and revised in 2002, "Regulations for Work Concerning Spoken and Written Languages in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" enshrines in legal form the equal rights of all peoples in terms of their own spoken and written languages, encouraging people to study the spoken and written languages of other ethnic groups. Enacted in 1996, "Measures Concerning Implementation of the PRC Law on Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" stipulates that all commodities produced and sold in the autonomous region should have both the relevant minority and Han Chinese languages written on their packaging and users' manuals; that business operators who have the Muslim phrase "halal" (qingzhen) or its symbol visible on their business premises or on food packaging or labeling, should be approved by ethnic affairs administrative departments of the people's government above the county level.

Freedom of religious beliefs honored in Xinjiang

The state adheres to the principle that the spoken and written languages of all peoples are equal, and opposes linguistic privilege in any form. In light of actual conditions in Xinjiang, the government of the autonomous region promulgated, respectively in 1988 and 1993, "Provisional Regulations of Administration for the Use of Minority Languages in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" and "Regulations for Work Concerning Spoken and Written Languages in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region," which legally enshrine the freedom and rights of ethnic minorities to use their own spoken and written languages. Now, Xinjiang has 13 ethnic groups inhabiting there for generations and using 10 spoken and written languages. The government organs of the autonomous region, prefectures and counties, in handling public affairs, use the language of the ethnic group exercising autonomy in that particular area as well as the Chinese language. Spoken and written languages of the minority peoples are widely used in news, publishing, radio, movies, and television programs. The Xinjiang Daily newspaper is printed in Uygur, Han, Kazak and Mongolian languages, while the Xinjiang Television Station broadcasts its programs in the same four languages. The Xinjiang People's Publishing House uses the above four languages plus the Kirgiz and Xibe languages for its publications. Over 70% of books and audiovisual products published in Xinjiang use minority languages.

Respecting ethnic minorities' folkways and customs is an important aspect of ensuring equal rights for all peoples. State and local governments in Xinjiang have formulated a number of policies and regulations to show respect for and protect the customs of minority peoples in terms of food, attire, festivals, marriage and funerals, while acknowledging that all peoples have the freedom to maintain or reform their own folkways and customs. Every year the government of the autonomous region makes specific arrangements to guarantee the production and supply of meats and other foodstuffs consumed daily by ethnic minorities, so as to ensure the production and supply of special foods for all communities, especially the 10 groups believing in Islam. In Xinjiang, on the Ramadan and Kurban festivals, all Muslim communities may enjoy statutory holidays, while those of Russian background may observe their own statutory holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

Ethnic unity is central to guaranteeing equality among all China's ethnic groups. The state protects the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic minorities, while opposing estrangements, discrimination, hatred and conflicts between ethnic groups, as well as big ethnic chauvinism, especially Han chauvinism, and local nationalism. In Xinjiang, striving for unity among all its ethnic groups is of specific significance, because it is an important guarantee for accomplishing all work in the region. Over the years, the government of the autonomous region has strongly promoted the idea that "Everyone treasures the idea of ethnic unity, understands the policies on ethnic issues, and strives for and contributes to ethnic unity." Through their experience, the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have come to the conclusion that "the Han Chinese cannot live without the minority groups, that the minority groups cannot live without the Han Chinese, and no one minority group can live without the other minority groups (known as the 'three inseparable ties')." In 1982, Xinjiang took the lead in China to launch a campaign of commendation activities for endeavors towards ethnic unity. So far, the region has held five conferences commending a total of 862 model units and 1,520 exemplary individuals. Since 1983, the government of the region has launched an "educational month of ethnic unity" in May throughout the whole region, carrying out intensive and extensive public education work concerning ethnic unity. Now this work has been ongoing for 27 years. Xinjiang's primary schools right up through its universities, all include in their syllabuses courses concerning ethnic unity and knowledge of other ethnic groups. Through constant education, people of all communities in Xinjiang have been suffused with the concepts of equality and unity, and the idea of "three inseparable ties," and treasuring mutual support, respect and love has become a common practice.

 Freedom of religious beliefs honored in Xinjiang

Students from Minzu Middle School, a part of the 5th Agriculture Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, exercise on the school's grounds in this file photo taken on Nov 25, 2008. Du Wei

In Xinjiang, ethnic relations featuring equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony are reflected in every aspect of social life. Influenced by their traditional ways of production and life, the Uygur and Hui peoples tend to focus on business and food services, while Han people would grow vegetables, and Kazaks are more inclined toward pasturing. With their respective strengths, they have cooperated with one another, aiming at common development in a unified market and with the same production objectives. The unified social system, common political and economic organizations as well as shared community living have all helped form stable cooperative relationships between different communities and have made them become closer comrades, colleagues, neighbors and friends, thus greatly enhancing their understanding and friendship. According to a questionnaire survey conducted in more than 10 counties (or cities) in 2004 and 2005, among the Uygur and Han urban residents, those who have more than two friends from other ethnic groups accounted for 65% and 61%. Those who have no friends outside their own ethnic group made up 30% and 29%. In recent years, intermarriages have increased between people of different ethnicities. In Urumqi, the percentage of intermarriages in the city's registration was 2.1% (218 couples) in 1980, while the figure rose to 5.9% (811 couples) in 2003. In Tacheng, the percentage of intermarriages in the city's registration was 5.5% in 1995, rising to 39.5% in 2003. According to a 1987 survey conducted in a neighborhood inhabited by people from four ethnic groups, among 141 who have linguistic abilities, 48 people can use two languages, 16 use three languages, six use four languages, and one person could use five languages. Each time Muslim communities, such as Uygur, Kazak and Hui, celebrate the Ramadan and Kurban, or when Han and Mongolian peoples celebrate their Spring Festival, friends and colleagues from other ethnic groups would send their best wishes and share in the festive celebrations.

VI. Protecting Citizens' Rights of Freedom of Religious Belief

Since ancient times, Xinjiang has always been a region with a number of religions existing side by side. The major religions in Xinjiang today are Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism and Daoism. The Chinese government enacts a policy of freedom of religious belief, which the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has thoroughly implemented. It protects citizens' rights of freedom of religious belief in accordance with the law, safeguards the legitimate rights and interests of religious circles, and promotes healthy and orderly development of religion.

Freedom of religious belief is a basic right bestowed by the PRC Constitution on all its citizens. It is stipulated in the Constitution as follows: "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities." In addition, the State Council promulgated "Regulations on Religious Affairs," which stipulates: "Citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief. No organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in any religion or citizens who do not believe in any religion. Citizens who believe in religions and those who don't shall respect each other and coexist in harmony, as shall citizens who believe in different religions." Other relevant laws and regulations have specific provisions on the protection of citizens' freedom of religious belief. The state emphasizes that all citizens are equal before the law; that the citizens have the freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; that the citizens enjoy the rights of freedom of religious belief and at the same time must carry out corresponding responsibilities; that anyone who violates others' rights of freedom of religious belief shall bear the legal liability; and that both religious citizens and non-religious citizens shall bear the same legal liability for breaking the law.

In Xinjiang, people of all ethnic groups fully enjoy the right of freedom in religious belief. The people's freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion is protected by the law, and no state organ, public organization or individual may interfere with their choice. By the end of 2008, the autonomous region had 24,800 venues for religious activities, including mosques, churches and temples, in addition to over 29,000 clerical personnel, 91 religious organizations and two religious colleges. Since the 1980s, more than 50,000 people from Xinjiang have made pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the number of people from Xinjiang who make the pilgrimage each year has been around 2,700. By 2008, over 1,800 religious personages in Xinjiang had been elected to posts in people's congresses and committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at all levels. They have actively participated in deliberation and administration of state affairs on behalf of religious believers, and in exercising supervision over the government in respect to the implementation of the policy of freedom of religious belief.

The state and the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region administer religious affairs and protect the legal rights and interests of believers, religious organizations and venues for religious activities in accordance with the laws. The State Council promulgated the "Regulations on Religious Affairs." The Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region formulated and promulgated the "Regulations for the Administration of Religious Affairs in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region." The government of the autonomous region formulated the "Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Religious Activity Venues in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region," "Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Clergy in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" and "Provisional Regulations for the Administration of Religious Activities in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region." These regulations further clarify that the citizens enjoy the right of freedom in religious belief, and the country protects normal religious activities, as well as the legal rights and interests of believers, religious organizations and venues for religious activities in accordance with the law; that believers, religious organizations and venues for religious activities should abide by the Constitution and related laws and regulations, and safeguard national unification, ethnic unity and social stability; that no organization or individual may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the state educational system, or in activities that harm state and public interests, as well as citizens' legal rights and interests; and that no one should use religion to interfere in the performing of administrative and judicial functions by the state.

According to corresponding laws and regulations, the autonomous region protects all normal religious activities held either at venues for religious activities or in believers' own homes in accordance with customary religious practices, such as worshipping Buddha, reciting scriptures, burning incense, worshipping, praying, preaching, attending Mass, being baptized or ordained, celebrating religious festivals, observing extreme unction, and holding memorial ceremonies, which are all protected by law as the affairs of religious bodies or believers themselves and may not be interfered with. However, the autonomous region shall ban, in accordance with the law, activities that make use of religion to intervene in the performing of administrative and judicial functions of the state, as well as education, marriage or civil lawsuits.

Religious affairs are developing in a normal and orderly manner in Xinjiang. Religious classics and books and magazines have been published, including the Koran, Selections from Al-Sahih Muhammad Ibn-Ismail al-Bukhari, Koran with Annotations and Selected Works of Waez, in Uygur, Han, Kazak and Kirgiz languages, as well as the New Collection of Waez's Speeches series and the magazine China's Muslims in Uygur and Han languages, the latter with a circulation of over one million. Large numbers of mosques in Xinjiang have been designated as key cultural relics sites under the protection of the state, the autonomous region and the various counties. In 1999, the central government allocated 7.6 million yuan for the reconstruction of the Yanghang Mosque in Urumqi, the Baytulla Mosque in Yining and the Jamae Mosque in Hotan. The government has also, on several occasions, allocated special funds for the maintenance and repair of the Idkah Mosque in Kashi and Tomb of the Fragrant Imperial Concubine (Apak Hoja Mazzar), and Sulayman's Minaret in Turpan. In 2008 alone, 33 million yuan was allocated by the state for the maintenance and repair of Idkah Mosque and the Tomb of the Fragrant Imperial Concubine.

Now, most people of Xinjiang's 10 major ethnic minority groups, with a total population of over 11.3 million, believe in Islam. The number of Islamic mosques has soared from 2,000 in the early days of the reform and opening-up drive to 24,300 now, and the body of clergy from 3,000 to over 28,000. Since its founding, the Xinjiang Islamic Institute gives lessons in Uygur and other minority languages and has trained 489 Imams, Hatips or other teachers for religious schools in the autonomous region. It currently has 161 students. From 2001 to 2008, the Xinjiang Islamic School trained more than 20,000 clerics. In addition, 3,133 Talips were trained by religious personages, in Islamic schools and classes operated by Islamic associations in the various prefectures and prefecture-level cities. Among them, 1,518 have graduated and 803 taken up clerical posts. In an attempt to cultivate high-caliber clerical personnel of Islam, since 2001, the regional government has sent 47 clerics for training in colleges and universities in Egypt and Pakistan.

Historically, the region witnessed many conflicts between different religions and between different sects of the same religion. In the mid-10th century, the Islamic Karahan Kingdom waged a religious war against the Buddhist kingdom of Yutian, lasting for more than 40 years. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, religious battles continued for several hundred years within Islamic circles. These wars between and within religions seriously jeopardized the unity between different religions and between different sects, as well as general social harmony and stability. Since the founding of the PRC, the implementation of the policy of freedom in religious belief and administration of religious affairs in accordance with the law have promoted peace and harmony between different religions in Xinjiang, as well as mutual respect and understanding between religious and non-religious citizens and between citizens believing in different religions. There have been no modern conflicts or clashes caused by differences in religion or religious sect.

Vii. Safeguarding national unity and social stability

The development and progress of Xinjiang are achieved in the People's Republic of China, a unified multi-ethnic country, and in a stable social environment, and are the results of concerted efforts of the people of all ethnic groups. All these achievements would have been impossible for Xinjiang without national unification, social stability, or ethnic unity. For years, the "East Turkistan" forces in and outside Xinjiang, without any regard for the wellbeing of the diverse peoples of Xinjiang, have been trumpeting national separatism, and plotted and organized a number of bloody incidents of terror and violence, seriously jeopardizing national unification, social stability and ethnic unity, thus seriously disrupting Xinjiang's development and progress.

Over a long period of time, the "East Turkistan" forces have unremittingly instigated separatist activities. The term "East Turkistan" first appeared in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, a tiny number of separatists and religious extremists in Xinjiang further politicized the term "East Turkistan," and fabricated an "ideological and theoretical system" about the "independence of East Turkistan." Separatists of different shades in Xinjiang raised the banner of "East Turkistan" and formed "East Turkistan" forces, trying to establish a so-called "East Turkistan" separatist regime. From the early 1930s to the mid-1940s, with the instigation and support of hostile foreign forces, the "East Turkistan" forces shouted slogans like "killing the Han and annihilating the Hui" and "opposing and expelling the Han," creating many disturbances and even wantonly slaughtering innocent people in their attempt to split the motherland and set up an illegal regime. What they did met strong opposition from people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

Since the founding of the PRC, Xinjiang has entered a new stage, enjoying ethnic unity and social stability. However, the "East Turkistan" forces have persisted, carrying out clandestine actions. Supported by hostile foreign forces, the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China created many riots and launched armed insurrection in their attempt to split the country. In the 1990s, influenced by terrorism, separatism and extremism, the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China turned to terrorist violence as the chief means of their separatist activities. The terrorist nature of the "East Turkistan" forces was eventually recognized by the whole world. In 2002, the United Nations Security Council added the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)" to its sanction list of terrorist groups. In recent years, the "East Turkistan" forces have continued separatist activities under the banners of "democracy," "human rights" and "freedom," trying to escape strikes against them or to clear themselves of the name of terrorism. In 2004, the "East Turkistan" forces patched together the World Uygur Congress (WUC) outside China. Since then, they have plotted and organized a number of separatist and sabotage actions. On the one hand, they have stepped up infiltration to the ideological field by preaching separatism and "holy war"; on the other, they have intensified their efforts in the acts of terror and violence, organizing and instigating some individuals within China to go abroad to receive training in religious extremism, separatism and terrorist skills, and openly calling on extremists inside China to create terrorist incidents, including bombings and poisonings aiming at kindergartens, schools and the government institutions, or attacking China's military forces and government departments.

Since 2008, the "East Turkistan" forces have started a new round of sabotage activities, and created a number of bloody incidents of terror and violence aimed at the Beijing Olympics. In particular, the seriously violent incident of July 5, 2009, which erupted in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was masterminded by terrorist, separatist and extremist forces both inside and outside China. The violence caused great damage to the lives and property of people of all ethnic groups, seriously jeopardizing the normal order and social stability of the region. After the eruption of the riots, the central government and the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, relevant departments of the central and state organs, the military and armed police relied firmly on the cadres and masses of all ethnic groups to safeguard social stability, the socialist legal system and fundamental interests of the people, and took decisive and powerful measures to stop the violence in accordance with the law, to quickly bring the incident to an end and restore social stability in Urumqi.

The "East Turkistan" forces pose a severe threat to the development and stability of Xinjiang.

The "East Turkistan" forces have seriously violated the basic human rights to life and development of all the peoples of Xinjiang. Since the 1990s, the "East Turkistan" forces have organized large numbers of acts of terror and violence, seriously jeopardizing the security of lives and property of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. According to incomplete statistics, from 1990 to 2001, the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China created more than 200 bloody incidents of terror and violence in Xinjiang, by means of explosions, assassinations, poisoning, arson, attacking, riots and assaults. As a result, 162 citizens, including people of various ethnicities, cadres at the grassroots level and religious personnel, lost their lives, and over 440 were wounded. In 2002 they again organized several bloody incidents of terror and violence in Xinjiang. The most recent "July 5" riot in Urumqi caused huge losses in lives and property of the people of various ethnic groups. By July 17, 2009, 197 people died (most being innocent victims) and over 1,700 were injured, with 331 shops and 1,325 motor vehicles destroyed or burned, and many public facilities were damaged.

The "East Turkistan" forces have seriously interrupted the economic development of Xinjiang. Firstly, they have seriously undermined the environment for investment, as evidenced by the drastic reduction in investment from other parts of the country. From 1997 to 1998, when crimes of terror and violence were frequent, the economic development of Xinjiang witnessed a remarkable slowdown. Primarily, outside investment declined as foreign investors withdrew their funding one after another, thus depriving Xinjiang of many development opportunities. After the eruption of the "February 5" riots in Yining in 1997, the economy of Ili Prefecture suffered a prolonged slump, with a depression in the real-estate market and drastic reduction in tax revenues. Many investors began to have doubts about Yining's investment environment, and the newly developed Yining Economic and Technological Zone grinded to a half-standstill. Secondly, tourism suffered as a result. Tourism is an important industry in Xinjiang. The "July 5" riot in Urumqi produced a serious adverse impact on Xinjiang's tourism, causing a sudden drop in both the number of tourists and revenue of tourism. Thirdly, precious resources have been dispersed. Plenty of human, material and financial resources have had to be put to guard against and combat crimes of terror and violence in order to safeguard the security of the country and social stability. Fourthly, exchanges between Xinjiang and foreign countries have been interrupted. The development of international thoroughfares and foreign trade in Xinjiang has been seriously affected.

In addition, the "East Turkistan" forces pose a threat to regional security and stability. The "East Turkistan" terrorist organizations, with ETIM as representative, have carried out actions in Central and South Asia over a long period of time, creating many bloody incidents of terror and violence, including assassinations, arson and attacks on police. They also secretly participated in terrorist activities plotted by international terrorist organizations, posing a threat to the peace and stability of all countries concerned.

Terrorist activities organized by the "East Turkistan" forces aimed against the various ethnic groups of Xinjiang pose an open challenge to the Constitution and laws of China, and are serious crimes of violence against society and humanity. National unification is in the fundamental interests of all peoples of Xinjiang; social stability is a prerequisite and guarantee of Xinjiang's development; and ethnic unity is the lifeblood of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. Ethnic unity is a blessing for all peoples, while separatism would be disastrous. The Chinese government has, in accordance with the law, combated the sabotage activities of the "East Turkistan" forces to create a stable and peaceful social environment for Xinjiang's development. It is in keeping with the common aspirations of all peoples of Xinjiang and therefore has won their genuine backing and active support.

Conclusion

Xinjiang's development and progress is there for all to see.

Today, it has become clearer for the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang that national unification, ethnic unity, social stability, plus the coexistence and development in harmony of all peoples who share weal and woe are the lifeblood for the region's development and progress. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang cherish dearly this hard-earned remarkable situation. They will keep taking economic construction as the core, while safeguarding social stability and working together with the people of all ethnic groups in China to strive for common prosperity. They will share in a common destiny, consolidate and develop socialist ethnic relations characterized by equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony, to unremittingly advance Xinjiang's development.

With its beautiful and fertile lands, Xinjiang enjoys an elevated place in the Chinese people's hearts. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang who protect and develop the land are great and honorable. At present, the Chinese people are striving toward building a modern socialist nation characterized by prosperity, democracy, civilization and harmony. With the care and support of the Communist Party of China and the central government, following the country's development, all the peoples of Xinjiang, united as one through common efforts, will ensure a brighter future for Xinjiang.

Xinhua

(China Daily 09/22/2009 page10)