• China


    In addition to the Han majority, the Chinese government recognizes 55 peoples of ethnic minorities.
  • Peoples

    55 ethnic minority peoples are recognised by the Chinese government in addition to the Han Chinese majority
  • Rights

    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the Government of China on 13 September 2007.
  • Current state

    Although the Government of China has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it does not recognize the term “indigenous peoples”.


In addition to the Han majority, the Chinese government recognizes 55 peoples of ethnic minorities. Although the Government of China adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it does not recognize the term indigenous peoples, so the Declaration is not implemented in China. Human rights defenders emphasize increasing tension and widening the cracks in the relationship between the Han Chinese majority and ethnic minority peoples.

The Law of the People's Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy is an important basis for the governance of ethnic minority peoples. It includes the establishment of ethnic autonomous regions, the establishment of their own local administrative government and the right to practice their own language and culture. Autonomous ethnic regions account for approximately 60% of China's total area.

Indigenous peoples in China

China proclaims itself as a unified country with a diverse ethnic composition, and all ethnic groups are considered equal in the Constitution. In addition to the Han Chinese majority, the government recognizes 55 ethnic minorities within its borders.

According to the latest government data from the 2010 national census, the population of ethnic minorities stands at 111,964,901 people or 8.4% of the country's total population. There are still ethnic groups not recognized in China, totalling 640,101 people.

Most mother tongue teaching in ethnic minority regions in China has been marginalized due to the primacy of teaching the Chinese language. The language and education policy focus on raising the literacy rate of Putonghua (standard Chinese) in rural communities and ethnic minority regions.

The Xinjiang education board sent official notifications in October 2017, to promote the teaching of the Mandarin Chinese language from primary school, and that all courses and textbooks in Uighur and Kazakh will be banned.

Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of China

The main economic and social policies for people belonging to ethnic minorities in China are covered by the National Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) which emphasizes economic development to address the many complicated issues and different ethnic cultures of minorities in China.

Although in some ethnic minority regions the livelihoods of people have improved thanks to the government's economic stimulus programs, ethnic minority peoples are still subjected to oppression and discriminatory policies, and in Xinjiang Uyghur, Tibet continues Political unrest and cultural conflicts. Autonomous ethnic regions of Inner Mongolia.

One of the most protracted and difficult challenges is that of the Chinese authorities and the Uighur Muslim people of Xinjiang, where the government continues to implement strict controls on the Uighurs to prevent them from practising their religious and cultural traditions.

Another struggle for the indigenous peoples of China is related to the restrictions of their movements. Although the Xinjiang regional government abolished the personal identification program, tracked residency and movement of people and restricted Uyghurs from travelling outside the province, a new decree has been announced that requires Xinjiang residents to surrender their passports to public security authorities. annual review and will be retained for safekeeping after review.

In addition, the conflict over the expropriation of land and the forced relocation of inhabitants continues to be a challenge for many indigenous peoples in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. Local residents have protested the lease of their pasture lands to mining companies and real estate developers, noting that the transfer of property and the rental of land is illegal and that mining activities result in pollution and environmental degradation.

The conflict over land and natural resources between the Mongols and the Han Chinese has been ongoing for many hundreds of years. Today the Mongols are protesting more, using modern technology to present their case to the outside world. These more vigorous and well-organized actions are turning into civil resistance and a direct challenge to the Beijing government.


Officially, the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) proclaims itself to be a unified country with a diverse ethnic make-up, and all nationalities are considered equal in the Constitution.

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China: Plans to end nomadic lifestyles by 2015

"The Chinese Government continues to aggressively pursue and expand its national project for displacing nomadic herders off their traditional lands and resettling them in agricultural and urban areas," the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. Citing a statement posted on the official website of China's central government, the group said it marked "a major and seemingly final step toward eliminating the remaining population of nomad herders and eradicating the thousands of years-old nomadic way of life in China."

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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