Autonomous Legislative Power in Regional Ethnic Autonomy of the People's Republic of China: The Law and the Reality

  • Chunli Xia
Conference paper

Ethnic policies are burning issues for states. The People's Republic of China (PRC)1 is of no exception. China has 56 “minzu”2 or ethnic groups. The Han is the majority ethnic group and the other 55 ethnic groups were recognized during the Ethnic Identification (1950–1987) (Huang and Shi 2005, pp. 104–114). The population of the country numbers 1.30 billion, of which 91.59% are the Han and the remaining 8.41% belong to minority ethnic groups.3 Minorities are evidently inferior in number. However, they occupy nearly 60% of the areas where China's natural and mineral resources are located.4 A big proportion of minority ethnic groups inhabit areas where geographical and political security is crucial to the nation. Some minority ethnic groups also have kinship5 with groups located in China's neighboring countries.6 The relationship between the majority Han and minority ethnic groups has long been the concern of every government in Chinese history as well as of the present PRC government.

Regional Ethnic Autonomy (REA) is the legal arrangement in the PRC to facilitate minorities' claim of self-government. The Law on REA (LREA)7 provides, “REA is that under unified state leadership, areas where minority ethnic groups live in concentrated communities practice regional autonomy and set up organs of self-government for the exercise of autonomous power.”8 The LREA claims that it fully respects and guarantees the right of minority ethnic groups to administer their internal affairs and adherence to the principle of equality, unity and common prosperity for all minzu in China.9 The LREA also sets out considerable political, economic and cultural autonomous rights for minority ethnic groups.10 Under REA, China has created five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties/banners.11 Many autonomous regulations, singular regulations, alternative and supplementing regulations and rules have been made to incorporate the LREA into local legislation. REA seems to be a good arrangement for both the majority Han Chinese and minority ethnic groups because REA intends to guarantee equality and correct the numerically inferior position of or historical discrimination against minority ethnic groups. It is also expected that under REA, minorities' efforts, especially their friendly relationship with the Han, will contribute to the socialist construction and common prosperity of the country.


Autonomous Regulation Minority Ethnic Group Autonomous Prefecture Legislative Power Standing Committee 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chunli Xia
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Hong KongHong Kong

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