A Uygur family harvests ripe grapes in Turpan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (Photo/People's Daily Online)
China has made great strides in protecting the rights and interests of its ethnic groups, politically, economically and educationally, experts said on Friday.
They made the remarks at a side event of the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which was organized by the China Ethnic Minorities' Association for External Exchanges and themed "Ethnic Minorities' Rights Promoted in the New Era".
According to Chen Jiuyang, the association's director, China's constitution and legal system have played a significant role in ensuring that citizens from all ethnic groups are equal.
They have the right to participate in the administration of state affairs on an equal basis, and have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, to maintain or reform their own customs and habits, and to believe in a religion or not, he said.
In terms of participation in political affairs, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, one of the country's basic political systems, is designed to give areas inhabited by ethnic minorities regional autonomy under unified national leadership, Chen said.
Under this system, the chief of government of an autonomous region, prefecture or county in the country must be a member of the ethnic group that exercises regional autonomy.
Furthermore, officials in autonomous areas in China have the right to "adopt special policies and flexible measures" to accelerate local economic and cultural development that don't violate the principles of the constitution and law, which Chen said protects the rights and interests of minorities.
China has been promoting modernization among all ethnic groups to improve living standards, he said, citing the pairing of financial aid policies between developed provinces in the east and underdeveloped areas in the west.
Zunun Naserdin, a lecturer in Uygur language and literature at the Beijing-based Minzu University of China, said the country always places great importance on protecting the rights of ethnic groups to use and develop their own languages.
The Uygur teacher, who was born in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has been educated in Uygur since childhood, submitted his National College Entrance Examination in Uygur and finally got his PhD at the university where he teaches.
He said he believes that his personal growth demonstrates the government's efforts to guarantee the right to education for ethnic minorities.
At present, language and literature majors in minority languages are available at comprehensive universities in all five autonomous regions, including Xinjiang and Tibet, and in 15 universities specifically for ethnic minorities, Naserdin said.