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Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Related
UPDATED: July 9, 2009
History and Development of Xinjiang (II)

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the local government of Xinjiang promulgated an administrative order to abolish appellations and names of places containing meanings insulting to ethnic minorities. For instance, the place name of "Dihua" was changed to "Urumqi," and that of "Zhenxi" to "Barkol." Some appellations, though not implying insults, were also changed at the wish of the given ethnic minority. For instance, the name "Dahur" was changed 4o "Daur" in 1958, in accordance with the wish of the Daur people.

In order to further consolidate and develop the great unity among ethnic groups, since 1983, the government of the region has launched an "educational month of unity among ethnic groups" throughout the whole region every year. In a lively and up-to-date form, the publicity and educational event is carried out in a concentrated, extensive and profound manner, to promote the concepts of equality, unity and progress as the primary principles in the relationships between ethnic groups, and make mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual learning, mutual support and mutual understanding social norms to be routinely followed by people of all ethnic groups.

Ethnic minorities' right to autonomy is protected by laws and regulations. According to the Constitution, regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in compact communities. This is one of the basic political systems of China. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is an ethnic autonomous area with the Uygur people as its principal body. Other ethnic minorities also live in compact communities in some areas in Xinjiang, where corresponding ethnic autonomous areas have also been established. Currently, the whole region has five autonomous prefectures for four ethnic groups-Kazak, Hui, Kirgiz and Mongolian; six autonomous counties for five ethnic groups-Kazak, Hui, Mongolian, Tajik and Xibe; and 43 ethnic townships.

According to the provisions of China's Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, ethnic autonomous areas enjoy extensive autonomy. While exercising the functions and powers of local state organs, they shall have the power of legislation; the power to flexibly carry out or decide not to carry out decisions from higher-level state organs that are not suited to the actual conditions of the ethnic autonomous areas; the power to develop their own economy; the power to manage their own financial affairs; the power to train and use ethnic-minority. cadres; and the power to develop education and ethnic cultures. The People's Congress of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and its Standing Committee have adopted various regulations and resolutions which fit the characteristics and meet the requirements of Xinjiang based on the power accorded to it by the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy and Xinjiang's actual conditions, thus protecting the right to autonomy granted to ethnic autonomous areas by the law. By the end of 2000, the people's congress of the autonomous region and its standing committee had altogether enacted 119 local laws and 71 statutory resolutions and decisions, approved 31 local laws, three separate regulations formulated by local people's congresses and 173 administrative rules and regulations formulated by the government of the autonomous region.

Chief leaders of ethnic autonomous areas are citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. As stipulated by the Constitution, the head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned; and the other members of the people's governments of these regions, prefectures and counties shall include members of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy as well as members of other ethnic minorities. In order to thoroughly safeguard regional ethnic autonomy and the various rights of the ethnic minorities, Xinjiang places great importance on creating study and training opportunities for ethnic-minority cadres, sending huge numbers of ethnic-minority cadres to study in colleges and universities in inland provinces, running schools and training classes for ethnic-minority cadres at various levels in Xinjiang, and thus training and fostering a large body of administrative and professional ethnic-minority cadres for work in political, economic, cultural and other spheres. In 1950, there were only 3,000 ethnic-minority cadres in Xinjiang. In 1955. when the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was established, there were 46,000 ethnic-minority cadres. Today, there are as many as 348,000, accounting for 51.8 percent of the total number of cadres in the autonomous region. Meanwhile, the number of women ethnic-minority cadres has exceeded 46 percent of the total"number of women cadres in the whole region.

Ethnic minorities enjoy full representation rights in people's congresses at all levels. In order to thoroughly protect the rights of the ethnic minorities, the proportions of the ethnic-minority deputies to people's congresses at all levels are all approximately 4 percentage points higher than the proportions of the ethnic-minority populations in the total populations of the relevant areas in Xinjiang in the corresponding periods. The proportions of ethnic-minority deputies in the total number of Xinjiang's deputies to the National People's Congress of all previous terms have all exceeded 63 percent-all higher than the proportions of such ethnic populations in the region's total population in the corresponding periods.

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