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China’s development strategy fails to benefit critical ethnic minorities and masks repression

25 April 2007

China’s massive economic development strategy, touted to benefit rural ethnic groups in its western regions, in practice excludes, marginalizes, and masks the increased repression of ethnic minority groups such as Mongols, Tibetans, and Uyghurs, according to a new report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and Human Rights in China (HRIC).

The new report, China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions, examines China’s autonomy system, and how despite formal guarantees of self-governance and minority protections for ethnic groups, the system functions as a mechanism of exclusion and control. Systemic violations of civil and political rights occur in tandem with increasing exclusion of ethnic minorities from a top-down policy of economic development, especially evident in Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur autonomous regions.

Instead of benefiting the rural ethnic minorities, China’s economic development strategy implements a politicized policy agenda of resource extraction, assimilation through population transfers and militarization.

The report contains information from a diverse pool of sources, including Tibetan refugees, students, farmers, trade professionals, unemployed persons, former political prisoners, and NGO field workers, as well as references to Chinese law, official documents and publications.

Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC says, “The serious situations of these three ethnic groups tend to be marginalized in the current debates and assessment of China’s overall human rights situation, contributing to a dangerous historical amnesia.” She adds, “It can’t be forgotten that President Hu Jintao presided over crackdowns in the Tibet Autonomous Region while he was Party Secretary there.”

MRG and HRIC point out that instead of helping to build the ‘harmonious’ society announced by the current regime, China’s policy and practice towards ethnic groups undermines true social harmony and stability. This needs to be built upon equitable and sustainable development, and the respect for freedom of religious and cultural expression.

“China must provide genuine autonomy and ensure that minorities have the right to participate meaningfully in decisions which affect them”, says Zoe Gray, MRG’s conflict prevention officer. “The government must ensure that the benefits from the country’s rapid development are shared fairly with minorities.”

This report comes at a time when there is heightened international scrutiny of China in the lead-up to the Olympics, and China’s own interests in the international community are increasing.

HRIC and MRG believe that in order for China to become a respected member of the international community, it must adhere to its international obligations and protect and promote the rights of communities in practice, not only on paper.

The report includes a set of recommendations to promote greater transparency, inclusive political participation, equitable development and the preservation of cultural identity.

Notes to editors

  • The new report, China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions can be downloaded from this page (see right) or from
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • Human Rights in China (HRIC) is an international monitoring and advocacy non-governmental organization based in New York, Hong Kong, and Brussels. Founded in March 1989 by Chinese students and scholars, it conducts research, education and outreach programs to promote international human rights and advance the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China.
  • HRIC’s Executive Director, Sharon Hom, is available for interviews (Mandarin, Cantonese, English) in London (23/24 April) and New York (25 April). MRG’s Head of International Advocacy, Clive Baldwin, is available for interviews in London.

For additional information or to conduct interviews with MRG and HRIC representatives, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].