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

Ethnic minorities' freedom and right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages are fully respected and protected. The government of the autonomous region promulgated, respectively in 1988 and 1993, the Provisional Regulations of Administration for the Use of Ethnic Languages in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the Regulations for Work Concerning Spoken and Written Languages in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which further enshrine in legal form the freedom and right of ethnic minorities to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. Whether in the fields of judicature, administration, education, etc., or in political and social life, the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities are broadly used. Government organs of the autonomous region simultaneously use two or more spoken and written languages in handling public affairs. Government organs of autonomous prefectures and counties also simultaneously use the spoken and written languages of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in handling public affairs. Ethnic minorities have the right to use their own spoken and written languages in election and litigation. Spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities are widely used in the press, publications, radio, film and television. The Xinjiang People's Broadcasting Station uses five languages, namely, Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongolian and Kirgiz, while the Xinjiang Television Station uses the Uygur, Han and Kazak languages. The Uygur, Han, Kazak, Kirgiz, Mongolian and Xibe have newspapers, books and magazines available to them in their own languages.

Ethnic minorities' folkways and customs are fully respected. Ethnic minorities' folkways and customs are closely related to their production and life, as well as religious beliefs. To respect ethnic minorities' folkways and customs, the central and regional people's governments have promulgated a number of regulations. To guarantee the supply of special food needed by ethnic minorities, Muslims in particular, the people's government has promulgated regulations and taken a sequence of specific measures. For instance, it requires that large and medium-sized cities and small towns with sizable Muslim populations have a definite number of Muslim restaurants. At the communication hubs and in units with Muslim employees, Muslim canteens or Muslim catering must be provided. Beef and mutton supplied to Muslims must be slaughtered and processed according to Islamic customs, and must be separately stored, transported and sold. On their respective traditional festivals, such as the Kurban Festival and Fast-breaking Festival, all ethnic minorities may enjoy statutory holidays and be supplied with special festive food. Ethnic minorities which traditionally practice inhumation are exempt from the government requirement of cremation, and are allotted special land for cemeteries. There are no restrictions whatever on folkways and customs of a religious nature, such as wedding or funeral ceremonies, circumcision and giving religious names.

Ethnic minorities' educational level is continuously rising. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, to change the extremely backward situation in education among the ethnic minorities, a whole array of measures have been adopted. The development of education among ethnic minorities has been regarded as one of the priorities of educational work. Focus and priority of arrangement and support have been given to the education of ethnic minorities in terms of development program, fund input, and teacher training. To change the backward educational situation of the ethnic minorities in pastoral areas, huge amounts of funds have been spent on establishing boarding schools; and grants are available for particularly poor students in boarding schools, middle schools, polytechnic schools, colleges and universities. In 2002, for instance, free textbooks with a value of 12 million yuan and grants totaling 30 million yuan were given to such boarding schools. Secondary and primary school students covered by the compulsory education period in the three prefectures of Hotan, Kashi and Aksu and the Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture of Kizilsu in south Xinjiang, where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, enjoy free education. The compulsory education period is extended so as to enable ethnic-minority students to receive nine to 12 years of compulsory education. Tuition and fees and expenditures for textbooks are waived for primary and middle school students of ethnic-minority origins in some border and poor counties. A total of 5,882 primary and middle schools serve ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, accounting for 69 percent of the total number of primary and middle schools in the region. At the same time, many schools practice a mixed enrolment of students of ethnic-minority and Han origins. Today, the whole region has formed an educational system for ethnic minorities which is rational in structure, multi-level and developing in a coordinated way. By the end of 2001, the enrolment rate of school-age children had reached 97.41 percent for primary schools and 82.02 percent for junior middle schools. At the college entrance examination, a preferential policy is implemented, whereby the entrance mark has been specially lowered for ethnic-minority students according to the actual circumstances of the students' sources.

Ethnic minorities' traditional culture is protected and flourishing. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have created a long-standing, varied and colorful traditional culture, making a unique contribution to the cultural development of the Chinese nation. The government of the autonomous region has. in a planned way, organized specialists for work involving the collecting, editing, translating and publishing of the cultural heritage of ethnic minorities and the protection of their famous historical monuments, scenic spots, rare cultural relics and other important items of historical and cultural heritage. Since 1984, the regional office in charge of the collection and publishing of ethnic minorities' ancient books has collected more than 5,000 titles of such works, edited and published more than 100 titles. Two colossal works, Kutadgu Bilig (Wisdom of Fortune and Joy) and A Comprehensive Turki Dictionary, of the Karahan Kingdom period in the 11th century, which had been on the verge of being lost, were translated into Uygur language and published, and then translated into the Han language and published in the 1980s with the support of the government and the long-term concerted efforts of specialists of various ethnic groups. Tremendous achievements have been made in collecting, editing, translating and researching the longer of the Mongolians and the Manas of the Kirgiz, two of China's three important epics of ethnic minorities. The Twelve Muqams opera, a classical musical treasure of the Uygur people, which was also on the way out before the founding of New China, has long been an artistic form on the top of the list for rescue by the local government of Xinjiang, which has mobilized efforts for collecting and editing works of this genre. Half a century ago, only two or three elderly musicians could sing it completely. But now it is widely sung, following the establishment of the Muqam Art Troupe and Muqam Research Office in Xinjiang. Traditional local sports with a long history are flourishing. Items like "picking up a sheep while riding a galloping horse," horse racing, wrestling and archery are again becoming popular among the local people. The Darwaz (Uygur tightrope walking at high altitude) is now widely known both at home and abroad.

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