FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND MINORITY RIGHTS IN CHINA

In dealing with its officially registered 56 ‘nationalities’, including the dominant Han population, the People’s Republic of China has been adopting policies varying from marginalization to assimilation, and in some cases, to what some scholars argue, may be defined “cultural genocide”. With the fast economic growth since the 1990s, the state has devoted huge resources to what it calls the modernization of the theoretically autonomous regions, but has not cared of protecting minority rights. As for freedom of religion, policies have aimed to rigidly control the practitioners, with the Chinese Communist Party supervising a system of ‘recognized religions’ and repressing other groups of believers. In different moments, demolitions and partial reconstructions of monasteries and temples have taken place, along with the promotion of loyal religious chiefs and the oppression of those who are not willing to accept the CCP’s pervasive ideology. What was particularly hard was the suppression of Uighur Muslim believers and of Tibetan Buddhists who revere the Dalai Lama, as well as of Falun Gong and other groups labelled as “evil cults”. Several cases show a somehow paradoxical attitude of the Chinese government when applying a strongly unifying ideology within its territory, while officially using a relativist cultural approach when it comes to the effective implementation of International Human Rights Law. This article mostly takes into consideration ‘Mainland China’; it then refers to Taiwan as an example of a different way to deal with minorities, and mentions the situation of Hong Kong.

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