The ethnic minorities in China and the Tibet issue

It is a little known fact that the ethnic minorities make up 9.44% of the China (including Taiwan) population. Most of the ethnic minorities have assimilated into the mainstream China Han culture save for the Tibetans and Uyghurs, which are distinguished by the religions they practise and the attires they wear.  Most Tibetans practise orthodox Buddhism and the men wear monastic robes, while Uyghurs or Chinese Muslims practise Islams and the men wear white caps.

Muslims can be seen almost everywhere in Dongguan and Shenzhen, the southern part of Guangdong province, which are the cities I mostly frequented. Most of them operate restaurants, noodle shops or stalls. They appear to get along with the rest of the Han people very well. They do not seem to feel alienated as most of  the residents there are from other provinces or other cities of Guangdong. The Chinese Muslims in the area speak Mandarin or Putonghua and my personal experience was that they are just as economically minded as we Han people.

If one thought that the Muslims in China are being purged by the China authorities or the Han people, I think he is wrong. As can be seen from the link in question, Muslims’ mosques can be found in major cities in China and their religious rights or freedoms are, to a great extent, respected . I found out that there is one mosque  in the middle of Shenzhen, a special econominc zone, close to the border of Hong Kong.  Honestly, although the mosque is quite modest in size, I have not seen a christian church or a buddha temple that big in the southern part of Guangdong, if at all. 

I also from time to time met ethnic minorities working in southern China.  They were mostly from the Guangxi Province (west of Guangdong) and were of the Miao origins.  They look exactly like Han people.  If they did not tell me that they were from Guangxi I would not have known that they were of ehtnic minorities. They did not have any qualms against the Han people and the only qualms they had were towards their bosses (just like most of us). 

One particular experience I had with an ethnic minority was that at one time I travelled to Zhongshan (again in Southern Guangdong), I was shown around by a Miao young tourist guide of their village in a remote mountain.  He told me that his ancestors were from a far away village in Guangxi province.  He further told me that the local (Han) people treated them badly in the 1970s, but things had changed for the better and free housings were provided by the local authorities to him and his fellow Miao people and they were not bound by the one kid policy, which, I must say, is a “privelege” not generally enjoyed by the Han people.

I told the young tourist guide that not only his people suffered during that period (the Cultural Revolution), we Han people did too.  I told him my grandfather was at the time forced to work in a quarry as he was dunned (pestered) for being a capitalist and he could not put up with the humililation and died of a deteriorating health as a result. I told him to “let bygones be bygones”.

Why can’t the Tibetans do the same. I understand that the turmoils of the Cultural Revolution still lingered in their minds and their animosities towards the Han people are understandable. As I understand it, the Tibets were given a lot of privileges and new infrastructures were built in the the regions, which would bring economic benefits to them.  May be to them their religion and culture are more important than economic benefits.

Speaking from personal experience, when Hong Kong was set to be handed over to China, Hong Kong people had certain skepticism towards the then Chinese government.  At the time Hong Kong people sought overseas citizenships in droves but it is now almost impossible to drive us away. 

As a matter of fact, we Han people were ruled or suppressed by an ethnic minority, the Manchurians, for over 200 years during the Qing Dynasty, the latter period of which was probably the darkest period of China history. We do not want to be suppressed nor do we want to suppress. We would like the Tibetans to be part of us in a harmonious society like most of  the rest of the ethnic minorities.

If every one of the ethnic minorities or territories with different backgrounds, like Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, want to be independent, China would be carved up, which is a scenario I do not want to see.