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Regional National Autonomy and Minority Language Rights in the PRC

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The existing Chinese legal framework for the protection of minority language rights is challenged by the development of law for the promotion of the majority language. The Regional National Autonomy Law (RNAL) is a centre-piece in the protection of minority language rights having the aim of guaranteeing the rights of the minority nationalities to administer their internal affairs. However, despite that, the RNAL stipulates that the autonomous organs shall guarantee the freedom of the minority nationalities to use and develop their language, culture and traditions. The law- and decision-making powers of the autonomous organs are subject to the approval of higher level authorities under the rules of governance based on the principles of 'democratic centralism'. This research argues that, particularly in view of the legal developments to promote the majority language, the institutional framework of the RNAL cannot provide an effective procedural guarantee for the implementation of minority language rights in accordance with international human rights law. Nevertheless, this article propounds that since China has proclaimed that it is moving towards governance based on the principles of the rule of law and international human rights standards for the protection of minority language rights could have an influence in this transition by increasing the clarity of the aims of the protection of minority language rights. In accordance with these principles, the role of the autonomous organs could be strengthened and clarified by the adoption of regulations and specific measures for the implementation of the RNAL by central and provincial authorities.

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Centre for Human Rights University of Oslo, Norway


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