Ethnic minorities 'won't be forgotten'
FACED with unrest in ethnic minority regions, China yesterday assured the poor parts of the mainland that they would not be forgotten in the bold drive to move towards a market economy.
Speaking during a tour to ethnic minority districts in the central province of Hubei, State Councillor Ismail Amat maintained that the policy to steer towards market-oriented reforms would not conflict with the policy of giving preferential treatment to ethnic minority regions.
But in a despatch carried by the China News Service, the senior official was not specific on whether the preferential policy towards ethnic minority regions would stay and if the gap between the poor and the rich regions would be further widened as market forces took over.
Mr Amat said the country's ethnic minorities policy was formulated through practice and had gained support from the whole nation.
''It [the policy] would be further improved as the society develops,'' he said.
However, Mr Amat said new problems would erupt in the course of the development of a socialist market economy.
Given the different economic, social and cultural backgrounds of the ethnic minority regions, he said some problems that might not occur in other regions could crop up.
This was despite the fact that economic reform would bring new opportunities and advantages to them, Mr Amat said.
He urged officials at all levels to study the new problems and trends, and the strengths and weaknesses of the ethnic minority regions in the market economy.
Officials should gauge the aspirations and demands of the ethnic populations on the development of a market economy in order to provide practical measures that met the specific needs of the regions, he said.
The official, however, stressed that it was of paramount significance for ethnic regions to rely on themselves for economic development.
''At the same time, [they] need the assistance from the state and the richer regions. Under the new situation, there is a need for the state to take macro-control measures to facilitate the economic development of the ethnic minority regions,'' he said.
Mr Amat indicated that the ethnic regions shared common interests with other localities and should co-operate and seek mutual development.
The maintenance of solidarity in the multi-racial nation remained an important task in the new phase of economic reforms, he said.
Ethnic unrest has erupted in minority regions this year, including angry protests by thousands of Muslims in Qinghai province in October over the publication of a picture of Muslims praying next to a pig.
The remarks made by Mr Amat, who is also chairman of the State Nationalities Affairs Commission, indicated Beijing's concern over ethnic disturbances.
He urged cadres to promote the development of ''spiritual civilisation''.