China’s provinces are gradually abolishing the policy of adding points to college entrance exams for ethnic minorities.

After China’s Anhui province announced the abolition of the local minority college entrance exam scoring policy earlier, Jiangxi and Liaoning have also made similar adjustments. So, what is the reason for the “U-turn” in China’s minority policy?

According to Chinese media reports, Jiangxi, Tianjin, Fujian and Liaoning have recently announced that they will abolish the policy of scoring extra points for ethnic minority examiners from 2023 or 2026 respectively. At the same time, Hunan, Guangxi, Hainan and Guizhou have also taken further steps to regulate the scoring of additional points for “minority candidates” by reducing the number of points or implementing the triple accreditation of household registration, school registration and actual years of schooling.

It is worth noting that Fujian Province will reduce the number of points for returnees, children of overseas Chinese, children of returnees and Taiwan candidates, while other provinces have retained the extra points for non-minority candidates.

180-degree shift Cancel Huairou policy for what?

Mr. Liu, an independent Chinese journalist who prefers not to give his full name for security reasons, analyzes the increasing number of provinces that have lifted their soft measures against ethnic minorities in favor of tougher measures: “It could be that the struggles of Uyghurs and Tibetans in Hong Kong and abroad have made Chinese President Xi Jinping anxious and is trying to eliminate any non-party ideology in China through tougher policies. Alternatively, it could be that with the economic downturn and increasing pressure to maintain stability, the government is releasing little costless favors to buy the hearts and minds of the mainstream public, so it is sacrificing the interests of the weak and non-existent mainland minorities.”

The public has its reasons and the in-laws have theirs?

According to a report in the Hong Kong daily Sing Tao Daily, since the resumption of the college entrance examination in 1978, China has provided special preferential policies such as “priority admission” or extra points in the college entrance examination to candidates who are the children of martyrs, ethnic minorities, returnees or overseas Chinese. Among them, the policy of scoring additional points for ethnic minorities, which is officially promoted by Chinese officials as “taking care of” ethnic minority candidates while guaranteeing them “access to higher education and promoting national unity and progress,” has sparked the discontent of a large number of Han parents and candidates.

For example, in 2018, there was a highly controversial incident in Guizhou in which ethnic minority candidates almost denied Yang Yun, the top candidate in the province’s college entrance exam, the chance to attend Beijing University after scoring extra points. Online news at the time revealed that 45 percent of the total number of candidates in Guizhou scored extra points, prompting about 1,000 parents to petition the Guizhou Provincial Bureau of Letters and Visits.

Sangjey Kep, from the Tibetan government-in-exile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information, argued that not everyone felt that the extra point policy was a “preference” and that China’s college entrance exam system was inherently unfair.

“In fact, many people feel that we can take the exams with Han Chinese candidates fairly. From another perspective, many ethnic minority students learn their own mother tongue and the curriculum is completely different from the Han curriculum, so it’s unfair not to have separate exams.”

He stressed that earlier Chinese authorities needed to train cadres of officials who could help them manage their various ethnic groups, and had therefore introduced “preferential policies” to encourage these people to leave their places of residence to undergo Chinese training. However, the Chinese authorities claimed “preferential” treatment for ethnic minorities, while at the same time extracting benefits from them.

“Many ethnic minorities have lost a lot of things before the Chinese government gives them special concessions. For example, the Tibetans have given land and resources. If you study those Tibetan aid projects and track where the money goes, it’s actually the Chinese government taking it out with their left hand and taking it back with their right. The so-called preferential treatment for ethnic minorities is all propaganda language.”

Continuing to “assimilate”

Recently, as China’s provinces and municipalities have reduced their scoring policies for ethnic minorities, some Guizhou parents went to the Guizhou provincial education department with white paper bearing the words “fairness in college entrance exams” to protest that the reform in Guizhou province, where ethnic minorities make up 36 percent of the population, is “too slow.

Xi Wuyi, a professor at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, forwarded the message on his microblog, leaving comments such as “oppose super-national treatment” and “cultivate a sense of community among the Chinese nation.

Mr. Liu, an independent Chinese journalist, told reporters that no matter how the starting point of the preferential policies for ethnic minorities has changed, it has resulted in ethnic minorities receiving assimilation education, while encouraging Han Chinese who are in a position to do so to modify their ethnic composition, resulting in ethnic minorities being actively or passively mixed with “sand”. He lamented that the cultural identities of ethnic minorities in the non-populated areas have now been largely smoothed out.

Sangay Gyatso also said that the Chinese government, after seeing that the “assimilation” measures that have been going on for years have not achieved the desired results, but have prompted Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongols and others to be more active in safeguarding their languages and cultures, has decided that there is no need to extend the preferential policies and has continued to propose policies to make ethnic minorities disappear.