There is no single community in the world today which does not consist of a minority group. In most cases, the minority ethnic groups and the majority are always in conflict, as the minorities are generally oppressed. This arises mostly as a result of cultural misunderstandings. Cultural misunderstandings have become a widespread problem in the contemporary society. Cultural identity is a broad notion which is composed of demographic components such as nationality and social status (Schwartz 2007, par.
1). However; the various governments of the world have tried to protect the rights of the minorities by ensuring that they are protected in their constitutions. Japan and China have very well stipulated rights of the minority in their constitutions; however, the minorities are still subjected to maltreatment in theses countries. Definition of a minority A minority is commonly described as a group of people in a given society with the following characteristics, “numerically smaller than the rest of the population of the state or a part of the state, which is not in a dominant position, which has no culture, language, religion, race among others, and is distinct from the rest of the population, whose members have a will to preserve the minorities, whose members are citizens of the state where they have the status of a minority, and have a long-term presence on the territory where they lived” (Smihula 2009, par.
1). China Chinese Cultural Centre (2010) states that, “From the hinterlands of the north, to the lush jungles in the south, from the mountains of Taiwan in the east, to the top of the world in the west, China serves as home to 56 official ethnic groups. The largest group, the Han, make up over ninety two of China’s vast population, and it is the elements of Han civilization that world considers “Chinese culture. ” Yet, the fifty five ethnic minorities, nestled away on China’s vast frontiers, maintain their own rich traditions and customs, and all are part of Chinese culture”.
The ethnic groups in China live together in very vast areas. Others live in small areas, in single concentrated communities which are normally inhabited predominantly by the Han people. This is a distribution which has been there since time immemorial in the history of China, as various ethnic groups mingled and migrated. China’s minority groups are scattered all over the republic. However, their population is small. They are found in every municipality, provinces and autonomous region under the Chinese Central government.
In other county-level units, there are more than two ethnic groups which live together. Currently, the Chinese minority groups are concentrated in autonomous regions like Ningxia, Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Sichuan, Liaoning, Hainan, Hunan, Jilin, Gansu, Guizhou, Yunnan and Taiwan (China UN 1999, par. 3). Generally, there are official efforts which have been made so as to cater for the rights of the minorities in China.
The most obvious ones are the assistance of the minorities to get their own language, glorify their legendary heroes by compiling the history of the minorities , restore the medical practices of the minority as well as help them develop literature, compose music and opera ( Debra & Jensen 2002, 175). Policies on minorities Prior to the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1949, there was a general imbalance of ethnic minorities. They were denied social and economic development. Most of the minority societies were in the slave system, primitive system and others, in the serf system.
Majority of the minority populations in these regions were slaves of feudal lords, temples, nobles and slave owners. The minority groups had no personal freedom, and all people would buy and sell them, and even give them out as gifts at their own will. The reason why there was so much oppression of the minority groups was because of the Sixteen-Point Law and the Thirteenth-Point Laws, which were formulated in the 17th century (China UN 1999, par. 11) The first policy that protects the rights of the minorities in China states that “All ethnic groups participate in State Affairs Administration on an equal footing” (China UN 1999, par. 14).
The Chinese Government has ensures that the Han people and the minority participate in affairs management at local and state governments. More importantly, the government has stated that there is full guarantee of the minority ethnic groups’ rights so that they can effectively take part in state affairs management. For instance, the highest state power organ in China, National Peoples Congress (NPC), has demonstrated a full support of the ethnic minorities’ rights. The Local People’s Congresses (LPC) and NPC have Electoral Law provisions.
These provisions state that “the minority peoples shall have their own deputies to sit in the NPC, and ethnic groups whose population is less than that prescribed for electing one deputy and permitted to elect one deputy” (China UN 1999,par. 14) In concentrated communities comprising of ethnic minorities, each of these communities is allowed to have their own deputy. The deputies elected sit in the LPC. Additionally, those who are scattered on vast areas are also allowed to elect their deputies in their LPC’s.
The number of people that are represented by the deputies is less than in the concentrated regions, compared to those who are from concentrated communities (China UN 1999, Par. 15). Great efforts have been made by the state so as to ensure that there is good proportion of people from the minority groups who are trained to be cadres. This enables them to be of help in the government. The national and local state offices are also comprised of very many personnel of the minority proportions. This is in the procuratorial, administrative, judicial and management organs.
From year 2000, the percentage of the minorities in the Standing Committee was twenty one percent. This number has been increasing within the years (China UN 1999, Par. 16) Since China became a republic, it has always ensured that “Identification of Ethnic Minorities” (China UN 1999, par. 17) is another policy which they should continually use. Previously, before independence, there was no figure which revealed the total number of the minority groups in China. It only started this in a bid to implement the equality policy among all ethnic groups.
As a result, there were well organized large scale investigations which were meant to identify ethnic groups since 1953. Since then, all ethnic groups, regardless of their social development level and the areas they have inhabited are all regarded as equal. Several minority groups which were not recognized in old China became recognized as a result of the change. They had the privilege of enjoying equal rights with the other ethnic groups in China (China UN 1999, par. 17). Before 1951, there were no proper names given to the minority ethnic communities in China.
This was considered as oppression and ethnic discrimination by the Chinese government. In fact, most of the names that were given to the minority groups portrayed implications of high class ethnic discrimination. Therefore, the Central People’s Government promulgated an order, which was meant to promote monuments, inscriptions, place names, tablets and appellations. Additionally, all inscriptions which had discriminative contents were all abolished. Some ethnic appellations which never implied insults were also changed so as to meet the wishes of certain ethnic groups.
For example, the Tong ethnic group was converted to Zhuang (China UN1999, par. 18). Acts or words which were aimed at inciting discrimination and hostility against ethnic groups, and those which also aimed at sabotaging unity and equality among the people was regarded as a law violation. All the ethnic groups that were subjected to oppression, insults or discrimination were given rights to complain to their respective judicial institutions. At this point, all the complaints would be dealt with accordingly.
China even joined several international conventions which were meant to protect the rights of all racial groups. Some of these include International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. These organizations have helped the republic to continually advocate the national and local policy on equality in the Republic of China (China UN 1999, par. 20).
The Chinese constitution also had provisions which enhanced the unity of the ethnic groups. The Chinese constitution has a policy which emphasized on the need to do away with group chauvinism, especially the Han chauvinism, as well as the local ethnic chauvinism. The Government has also worked hard to ensure that the media, literary works and publications groups are prohibited from revealing contents which damage ethnic unity among all Chinese communities (China UN 1999, par. 20). China has a diversity of religion. The main religious groups include Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Taoism.
Most of the ethnic groups have religious beliefs. The Chinese government has outlined specific policies which are meant to ensure that the freedom of all ethnic groups is safeguarded, and all the ethnic minorities are guaranteed normal religious activities (China 1999, par. 22). Additionally, they have been given freedom to “use and develop their own spoken and written languages” (China 1999, par. 23). There are specialists who have been kept aside so as to make investigations of written and spoken languages of the ethnic minorities.
Additionally, there are special organizations which have been started so as to help people research in languages and train specialists in the same languages (China UN 1999, par. 23). Culture is a people’s way of life. Killing the culture of a certain ethnic community would mean killing its future generation. In a bid to protect the culture of the ethnic minorities in China, the Chinese government has formulated plans which are meant to collect, edit, translate and publish elements of culture.
These studies are of a great help as they give the ethnic minorities the rights to eat the food they prefer, to perform their various rites and rituals without discrimination. Additionally, the ethnic Chinese communities are well known of practicing traditional medicine. The government has built universities and research institutions so as to ensure that the ethnic minority groups that practice traditional medicine continue, at a more advanced level. In regard to art, the Chinese government has come up with a policy which promotes all their music and literature, therefore, binding them together as minority ethnic communities.
No discrimination is allowed in the educational circles, as the constitution has stated. All children are entitled to a good education (China UN, par, 40-50). Treatment of the minorities by the Chinese society Regardless of the Chinese constitution which has stated clearly on the treatment of the ethnic minorities, there has been a great amount of discontent among the ethnic minorities. As a result, they have always complained to the local and national state officials in regard to this treatment. Many at times, the law has not been taken seriously.
When the officials do not give heed to the cries of the ethnic minorities, they end up protesting. A good example of recent protests which have evoked international concerns, and have actually revealed the treatment of the ethnic minorities in China is the Uighurs protests. The Uighurs are just a representation of the rest of the ethnic minorities, who have been denied their rights despite of them being stated clearly in the Chinese constitution. The Chinese government has not been so keen in the way they handle the East Turkestan and Urumqi, and there has been a general unrest in these regions (Kadeer 2009, par. 1).
The number of the Uighurs that died during the protests were over four hundred, and scores of them were seriously injured. As a result, there was a curfew imposed in their dwelling region, Xinjiang province. Additionally, security was beefed up, so much so that every house has two policemen guarding it (Kadeer 2009, par. 5-6). The reason why the protests had occurred was because the Chinese government had gone back to the habits of the days before China became an independent. It has continued ‘encouraging a national streak among the Han Chinese as it seeks to replace the bankrupt communist ideology it used to promote (Kadeer 2009, par.
10). The major reason why the Uighur people demonstrated was because of the destruction of an ancient Uighur cultural problem, ‘The Old City of Kashgar’. Despite of the governments claim to protect the culture of the minorities, they failed to demonstrate this through their action. This old city has served as an example of their civilization for very many years (Times on Line 2009, par. 7). Japan’s National and Local policies on minorities Despite of the fact that both Japan and China are states in East Asia, there are fewer numbers of minorities in Japan as compared to China.
The minorities in Japan form four percent of the total population (Faqs 2008, par. 1). The Japanese minorities have for a long time suffered oppression as a result of cultural and psychological factors. The ethnic minorities in Japan consist of the Koreans, Ainu, Burakumin and Okinawans. The numbers of the Burakumin minorities living in Japan are between three to four million. They are of the lower Indian castes, and therefore are generally discriminated. The other major minority group is the Korean group, which mostly inhabits the Kinki region of Japan.
The name Burakumin is discriminative, and traces its origin from the early Buddhist teachings prohibiting the killing of animals. All those people who were actively involved in the unrighteous and ignoble task of killing animals were referred to as the Burakumins. This is because they were considered as polluted. All contacts with these people were shunned. As a result they have been a discriminated ethnic minority in Japan even in the current days (Karan 2005, 184). The policies in Japan and China are not different. The Japanese government has tried its best to create the participation of minorities in the region.
The attitudes of the Japanese government towards the minorities stem more from social attitudes continuation than the ideologies from official state policy. Japan has a human rights and liberal constitution, which is similar in many ways to the Chinese constitution. The Constitution is keen on the culture and a, its aspects, including religion, literature, art and music. It also advocates for the education of all the children from the minority groups, as well as proper representation of the ethnic minorities is the Japanese government (Faqs 2008, par.
10). Even though Japan is known of having a human rights constitution, it maintains strong and regressive attitudes to several of the minority citizens. This is clearly revealed by the racialist attitudes towards the treatment of Koreans and the other minority groups (Faqs 2008, par. 10). The Japanese constitution stipulates in Article 14 that all people are under the law. Japan is a member of the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
These bodies are involved in the prohibition of discrimination on ethnic or racist grounds (HRDC 2002, par. 1). Treatment of minorities by the Japanese society The situation in Japan is no different from that of China as far as the treatment of the ethnic minorities is concerned. The Japanese authorities have always acted against the minority groups since time immemorial, regardless of the policies that the Japanese government has enacted concerning the ethnic minority treatment. A good example of an ethnic society that has been for a long time discriminated is the Koreans.
In 2006, dozens of Osaka policemen and women were mobilized so as to search shops which were run by Koreans in Japan. The aim of this activity was to ensure that there was safety in the region. Additionally, the Central Hall, the main hall of the Korean residents in Tokyo, was another bone of contention (Korea 2006, par. 3). This is because unlike what they authorities had promised before, tax had to be paid for the hall (Korea 2006, par. 1). There was also the suppression of the Chongryon movement. This was the opposite of what Japan had been described as, a “constitutional state” (Korea 2006, par.
3). Chongryon is an organization which was formed by the Korean people, and its role is to defend all the rights of the Koreans as far as democracy is concerned. The authorities claim that they would dissolve the group, as it was meant to attack the Japanese government (Korea 2006, par. 3). Several people have been against the racism and discrimination that has been subjected on the Japanese minorities. Due to this level of discrimination, UN specialists have stated that it is important to introduce new legislations to combat racism, as the situation has gone out of hand.
The government has failed totally to consider the seriousness of discrimination and racism in the region. As a result, the minorities have been segregated from the other tribes despite the laws that are present to protect them. These minority groups have been left to wallow in poverty in Japan’s poorest dwelling places like slums. Politicians in Japan have used nationalist or racist themes so as to ‘whip up popular emotions’. The only way that Japan would be able to curb the discrimination problem would be through cooperation of the government, the non-governmental organizations and the people.
This would only be possible if the minority groups would be consulted first (BBC 2010). Conclusion The local and national policies regarding the minorities in Japan should be enacted afresh. This is because; a society with a constitution which is not strictly adhered to is the same as having no constitution at all. Japan and China should listen to the cries of the minorities’ so as to advance in all their sectors. References China UN 1999, National minorities’ policies and its practice in China, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, viewed 25 May, 2010
<http://www. china-un. ch/eng/bjzl/t176942. htm > Chinese Culture Center 2010, Ethnic minorities in China, Chinese culture, viewed 25 May, 2010<http://www. c-c-c. org/chineseculture/minority/minority. html> Chris, Hogg 2010, Japan racism ‘deep and profound’, BBC, viewed 25 May, 2010 <http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4671687. stm> Debra, Susan & Jensen, Lionel 2002, China Off Center: Mapping the margins of the middle kingdom, Hawaii, University of Hawaii Press. Faqs 2008, East Asia minorities, Viewed 25 May, 2010 <http://www. faqs. org/minorities/East-Asia/East-Asia. html>
HRDC 2002, Japan minorities yet to find their place in the sun, human rights features, viewed 25th may, 2010 <http://www. hrdc. net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF56. htm> Kadeer, R 2009, The real story of the Uighurs, heavy-handed police tactics by the Chinese turned a peaceful assembly into a bloodbath, Dow Jones & Company, viewed 25 May, 2010 <http://online. wsj. com/article/SB124701252209109027. html> Korea NP 2006, FM Spokesman urges Japan to stop suppression of the Chongryon, viewed 25 May, 2010 <http://www1. korea-np. co. jp/pk/228th_issue/2006041508. htm> Karan, Prasad 2005, Japan in the 21st century: Environment, economy and society, Kentucky,
University Press of Kentucky Times on Line 2010, The Uighurs’ cry has echoed round the world. Times Magazine, viewed 25 May, 2010, <http://www. timesonline. co. uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6669906. ece> Schwartz Andrew 2007, Treatment of minorities in contemporary society, Article Base, Viewed 25 May, 2010<http://www. articlesbase. com/internet-articles/treatment-of-minorities-in-contemporary-society-167835. html> Smihula Daniel, Definition of national minorities in International Law, Journal of U. S. -China Public Administration, 6 (5)
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