Xinjiang showcases regional autonomy of ethnic groups
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, is a showcase of China's regional autonomy of ethnic groups.
Home to 49 ethnic groups, the region has turned a new leaf since 1955.
All ethnic groups are politically equal. They have set up five autonomous prefectures and six autonomous counties in the region. Tailored programmes have been designed to train ethnic people so that they get chances to climb the political ladder.
Xinjiang comprises the vast northwest part of China. Both in landscape and culture, the region differs significantly from the eastern provinces of China, notably for its deserts, rolling hills and towering peaks, as well as the distinct lifestyles of Uygurs, Kazaks and other ethnic groups.
Historically the area served as an important outpost for the caravan trade along the famous Silk Road, as testified by the remains of many ancient towns and cities. Among them is Kashgar, an ancient city once visited by Marco Polo and part of the Silk Road.
The strategic location of their oasis homes allowed them to be the "middlemen" for commerce between the orient and Europe.
The region has continued to be a vital link between China and the rest of the world, Central Asia in particular.
A vast land of pastures, deserts and mountains, Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level administrative region in terms of size. It is also an area of rich natural resources. There are large deposits of oil, gas and minerals.
Music, dance, and epic ballads are important parts of the social life of the Uygurs, Kazaks and other ethnic people. They possess an individual blend of cultural elegance unique to them. A nexus between the orient and Europe, Xinjiang has successfully made many contacts with other cultures. It is a land that possesses a rare mixture of simplicity and sophistication, which has given it a special and obvious charm.
Its uniqueness and pulchritude have been maintained thanks to a policy that allows ethnic groups to govern their own affairs.
Regional autonomy for ethnic groups has been made a basic policy in line with the actual conditions of the country. It has become an important part of China's political system.
Under the unified leadership of the state people of ethnic groups living in concentrated communities they practice regional autonomy. In these areas organs of self-governance are established for the exercise of autonomy, and for ethnic groups to become leaders of their own areas and manage the internal affairs of their own regions.
The regional autonomy for ethnic groups has ensured their equal footing and equal rights politically and has made it possible for all ethnic groups to take an active part in the nation's political activities to a large extent.
According to the principle of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities, an ethnic group may establish an autonomous area in a region where it lives in a concentrated community, or it may establish several autonomous areas at different administrative levels in other parts of the country in line with the distribution of the ethnic group.
The regional autonomy not only ensures the rights of the ethnic minorities to exercise autonomy as leaders of their home areas, but also works to unify the country.
The policy takes the conditions faced by ethnic groups into full consideration. Therefore, each group is able to adopt policies to their own individual advantage.
In the past five decades Xinjiang has showcased the importance and validity of the policy of regional autonomy for ethnic groups.
(China Daily 10/01/2005 page4)
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