Mixed marriages get cash gifts in Xinjiang

By Cathy Wong Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-3 0:13:01

Experts warn policy may backfire

A southern county in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is offering cash rewards and welfare benefits for marriages between minority ethnic groups and the Han people to promote ethnic unity, but some analysts say the policy might not have its intended impact.

Xinjiang's Qiemo county government announced on Monday on its website that it is giving out an annual 10,000 yuan ($1,627) cash reward for five years for mixed marriage couples following their marriage.

But the policy has attracted skepticism, arguing that marriage is a personal matter in which government policy should not intervene. 

"We are no longer publicizing the policy, but we will still go ahead with it," an official from the county's government office told the Global Times on Tuesday, in wake of increasing media scrutiny.

The policy offers family members of mixed marriage couples privileged access to housing, education, employment and welfare benefits. 

Ninety percent of these couples' medical expenses after insurance fees will be covered by the local government. The children will also be exempt from school fees within the county until high school, while an annual 5,000 yuan scholarship will be given to those who reach university.

Their parents will also be eligible for housing and medical benefits if their marriage lasts longer than three years.

"Our county has a lot of ethnic minorities with their own religious beliefs, but through Han-minority mixed marriages we can strengthen ethnic unity," a publicity official with the county said earlier in an interview with the Financial Times.

"The intention of the policy is good, but it has to be carefully implemented," said Li Xiaoxia, a professor with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. "It might end up strengthening ethnic identity and create social pressure on [mixed-race] families."

Li said such mixed marriages are rare in Xinjiang and are not likely to spread.

The new move, mirroring similar cash incentives offered in Tibet, is believed by some to be a measure to ease social conflicts amid increasing incidence of terrorist attacks in the region.

However, analysts believed the policy will remain limited to the single county and is unlikely to spread across Xinjiang.

"I put a call into a Xinjiang official immediately after I heard the news, and he said he disapproves of the policy," said Pan Zhiping, a research fellow with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

"Marriage is a personal freedom and cannot be encouraged using money. We should not stop mixed marriages, but neither should we encourage them [through policy]," said Pan.


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