Xi warns missteps on ethnic issues would 'destabilise' China

President Xi expressed zero tolerance for anything that could undermine ethnic harmony in the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG, XINHUA) - Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed zero tolerance for anything that could undermine ethnic harmony in the world's No. 2 economy, a sign he's sticking to assimilation policies that have led to unrest and allegations of human rights abuses.

"Only when all ethnic groups live in unity and harmony can there be a prosperous country, a stable society and a happy people," the 68-year-old leader told a delegation from Inner Mongolia region, which in the past has seen protests over policies for languages used in schooling.

"Without ethnic unity and harmony, the country would decline, society would be destabilised and the people would suffer," Xi said on Saturday (March 5), according to a summary of the National People's Congress event provided by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The nation's legislature and top political advisory body are holding their annual meetings this week in Beijing.

China has curtailed religious practices. Rights groups accuse China of widescale abuses against Uighurs and other minority groups, including torture, forced labour and detention of one million people in internment camps.

China says the camps are re-education and training facilities and denies any abuse, saying it is fighting religious extremism.

Last month, China used the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics to send a message of defiance against the West's charges by having members of all 56 government-recognised ethnic groups pass the nation's flag to each other in a display of harmony.

Still, there are occasionally signs that minorities are frustrated with the assimilation policies. In 2020, a decision to switch the language used in schools to Chinese from Mongolian set off protests and student boycotts, and videos posted on YouTube showed students chanting "Let us Mongolians strive to defend our Mongolian culture". Such clips were unavailable in China, where signs of ethnic unrest are among the many topics that can run afoul of censors.

Xi himself is a member of the delegation of lawmakers from the autonomous region in northern China. It is the fifth consecutive year that Xi has joined deliberations with the delegation during the annual legislative session.


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