Han, minorities urged to work towards unity
President Hu Jintao called for Han Chinese and ethnic minorities in the country to work together on the eve of the 60th anniversary celebration, state media reported.
A grand ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in the presence of all nine members of the powerful Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, marked the climax of a recent streak of ethnic-related events apparently aimed at dispelling tension hanging over tomorrow's 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.
'Every ethnic group is a valuable, integral member of the great family of the motherland,' Hu said. Only ethnic unity could guarantee development and economic growth.
'If there is no struggle for ethnic unity, then there can be no prosperity. Promoting progress in ethnic unity is every citizen's sacred responsibility and glorious mission.'
But he also stressed there would be no changes in government policy. 'The facts eloquently prove that our country has been successful at solving ethnic issues ... the party's ethnic policies are totally correct,' he said.
Ethnic clashes in Tibet in March last year and nearly three months ago in Xinjiang rattled mainland authorities, who had been boasting of their success in maintaining good relations between the country's predominant Han population and other ethnic minorities. Beijing has blamed ethnic and religious extremism for unrest in both areas, rejecting calls to make amends by reshaping its policies.
The State Council issued a rare white paper reviewing the country's ethnic policies last weekend, showcasing various and consistent efforts authorities have made to ensure interracial harmony since the communists came to power six decades ago.
That followed a similar white paper released earlier this month specifically addressing ethnic tensions in Xinjiang between indigenous Uygurs and the Han, who flooded into the autonomous region after the 1949 revolution.
The central government is still trying to restore law and order in the resources-rich western region after ethnic clashes in Urumqi , the region's capital, had killed more than 200 and injured thousands in early July.
Up to 1,500 organisations and individuals, mostly lower-level government bodies and officials, were rewarded yesterday for their outstanding work 'to promote equal and harmonious relations of mutual help among all ethnic groups and improve social security and livelihoods in ethnic minority areas', Xinhua reported.
One award winner was Zhou Xiaohong, a grass-roots party official in Nanjing, Jiangsu. The 46-year-old neighbourhood committee party chief reportedly helped found a multiracial music assembly in her community, believed to have enhanced ties between people of different backgrounds and bridged cultural gaps.
Yang Siyuan - a professor at Minzu University of China, which enrols mainly ethnic minority students - hailed official efforts to raise awareness among Han Chinese of ethnic minorities' grievances but said: 'These publicity stunts won't be able to address the underlying inequality that put the ethnic minorities at a social and economic disadvantage.'