Chinese scholars introduce protection of education right of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Xizang at side event of UN Human Rights Council
Published: Mar 15, 2024 08:57 PM


Chinese scholars revealed how the right to education of ethnic minorities has been protected in China's Xinjiang and Xizang regions at a side event during the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

The scholars said that certain countries should avoid viewing China's education development in these regions through biased lenses, and they should refrain from stigmatizing today's boarding education in China's Xizang by comparing it to the barbarism of boarding education in the Western colonial period.

The side event, themed "Right to Education of Ethnic Minorities During the Modernization: Good Practice in Xizang and Xinjiang, China" was held by China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) with seven Chinese scholars on human rights, education, and ethnic minority studies in China sharing their studies and also personal stories on the development of education of ethnic minorities in China's Xizang and Xinjiang regions.

While delivering the opening remarks, Wang Yanwen, deputy secretary general of the CSHRS, noted that China, with its 56 ethnic groups, must ensure that the right to education of ethnic minorities is not influenced or interfered with externally while better adapting to and integrating into the development of modernization - this is an important agenda in the Chinese modernization process and relevant to the global modernization process.

Wang said some countries and groups with ulterior motives have spared no effort to spread rumors and smear the development in Xizang and Xinjiang. But as a folk saying goes, "only the wearer knows if the shoes fit or not," there is no such thing as a universally applicable development model in the world.

China pursues a people-centered view of human rights, insisting that living a happy life is the primary human right. China has successfully found a path of human rights development that keeps with the trend of the times and China's national reality, said Wang.

At the Thursday side event, Liang Junyan, a research fellow from China Tibetology Research Center, shared her studies on the development of education of ethnic minorities in the Xizang region.

The expert noted that in old Xizang, only the nobility, who accounted for less than 5 percent of the population, enjoyed the right to education; while the serfs and slaves, who accounted for 95 percent of the population, were almost exclusively illiterate, and did not have the right to education.

Since the peaceful liberation of Xizang, with the support of the central government, Xizang has attached great importance to the excavation, inheritance and protection of the outstanding traditional cultures of all ethnic groups.

From 1951 to 2020, China invested 223.965 billion yuan ($31.12 billion) in education, establishing a modern education system covering preschool, basic education, vocational education, higher education, continuing education and special education, and implementing 15 years of publicly-funded education throughout the entire Xizang region, according to Liang.

Data from the seventh national census show that the number of Tibetans with a university degree per 100,000 people rose from 5,507 in 2010 to 11,019 in 2020.

However, for the development of education in Xizang, some people either cannot see or turn a blind eye to it, or even have ulterior motives and deliberately discredit it, Liang said.

The expert noted that there are boarding schools in many parts of the world, and when problems arise in some countries, they should review themselves and take practical actions to solve them seriously, instead of wearing tinted glasses and stigmatizing today's boarding education in China's Xizang by referring to the barbarism of boarding education in the Western colonial period.

Tuersun Aibai, an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication from Xinjiang University, shared his own education experience to detail the protection of education right of ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region.

When Aibai's father died in 1996, he was just in Grade 6, his younger brother in Grade 3, and his mother was a housewife. With the help of the government, Aibai managed to finish his education.

"I still remember back in 2005, when I was just admitted by Fudan University, the university gave me a grant of more than 10,000 yuan, when the tuition fee was only 6,000 yuan. As for my family, all of the seven siblings including me, has access to national full-time education. Three of us got a Bachelor's Degree or higher, and four have a high school or technical secondary diplomas. Many people have access to higher education supported by the national preferential policies for ethnic minorities and later have enjoyed a happy and decent life," said the expert from the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government has attached great importance to education development, especially that of minority nationalities. In 1949, the illiteracy rate in Xinjiang region was over 90 percent, nearly 10 percent higher than the national illiteracy rate. By 2022, the illiteracy rate in Xinjiang had dropped to 2.66 percent, 0.01 percent below the national level, according to Aibai.

The majority of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang region have changed their destinies through education and are leading happy lives. As the saying goes, "You don't know if the shoes fit until you wear them," said Aibai, inviting foreign guests to visit Xinjiang and gain first-hand experience about the region.