China pushes inter-ethnic marriage in Xinjiang assimilation drive

17th May, 2019 09:59:04 printer

BEIJING: China’s fractious far-west region of Xinjiang has changed its university entrance exam rules to give children from mixed families a leg-up on other students, in what experts say are the latest efforts to erase a mostly Muslim ethnic culture, reports AFP.

Following a flare-up in violence in 2014, Chinese authorities have rolled out draconian security measures across Xinjiang in recent years, from banning long beards and Islamic veils to placing an estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in internment camps.

Chinese officials describe the facilities as voluntary “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking people are taught Mandarin and job skills in a bid to steer them away from religious extremism.

But rights groups and former inmates see the measures as part of a campaign to forcefully assimilate Uighurs and other minorities into the country’s majority ethnic Han society, diluting their unique cultures and religious beliefs.

Observers say the change in the university enrolment system is another step in that direction, particularly in a region where Uighurs made up almost half of the 23-million-strong population, according to 2015 statistics.

In an online notice posted last week, the Xinjiang government published new rules for giving bonus points to disadvantaged groups in the nationwide college entrance exams—a key deciding factor for attending university in China.

In a reversal of last year’s policy, the regional government doubled the number of bonus points allocated to inter-ethnic students—defined as those with one Han parent—to 20, while more than halving the amount for students whose parents are both ethnic minorities to 15.

The new exam policy is “part of this effort to sinocize any kind of non-Han forms of thoughts and behaviour”, said James Leibold, a professor at La Trobe University.