By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/27 1:18:00
A dispute between Hui Muslims in Shanghai over the opening of a beef noodle restaurant by a fellow ethnic group member has launched a national conversation on the resolution of conflict among ethnic groups with ethnic rules, which some Net users and experts claim offend the law.
Xian Guolin, a Hui Muslim from Northwest China's Gansu Province who recently opened Alilan Beef Noodle Restaurant in a Shanghai commercial district, claimed on his Sina Weibo account on July 12 that a group of Hui Muslims from Qinghai Province protested in front of his restaurant and prevented customers from entering.
Xian said that the protesters claimed that he broke the "Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia treaty."
The picture of the "treaty" posted on social media appears to show an agreement between local restaurateurs and business owners from the Hui ethnic group stating that no one can open a beef noodle restaurant within 400 meters of an existing one.
Most halal beef noodle makers who are Muslims hail from Gansu, Qinghai and Shaanxi provinces and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in Northwest China.
Xian ultimately agreed to take the character for "beef" off of his restaurant's signage after local police stepped in to mediate the dispute.
But some Weibo users are not satisfied by this solution. They argue that the "treaty" does not constitute law and that the protesters who illegally disrupted Xian's legal business were not penalized.
Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China, told the Global Times that in some cases, ethnic minorities prefer to use their own traditional rules to solve internal problems.
"If the problem can be solved successfully and legally, law enforcement agencies will let [traditional rules] play their positive roles in solving problems," Xiong said, noting that these rules can solve the problem more effectively than the law, although they don't have legal binding power.
However, Xiong added that an ethnic minority's traditional rules should also have boundaries and cannot harm other people's interests.
"The government should get involved at once when someone tries to use ethnic rules to break the law," said Xiong.
Xi Wuyi, an expert on Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that ethnic minority and sectarian issues are highly sensitive in China because any small misstep or misunderstanding might affect social stability.
But Xi also stressed that society cannot ignore these issues out of fear of this sensitiveness, adding that the government and media should therefore pay attention to these issues in a bid to solve them effectively.