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Negotiable Rights? China's Ethnic Minorities and the Right to Freedom of Religion

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In order to get a fuller picture of the conditions for religious freedom for ethnic minorities in China, we must both look beyond laws and central policies as well as beyond the more publicised cases of religious suppression in Tibet and Xinjiang, both hot-spots of party-state concerns of ethnic separatism. The province of Yunnan – where one-third of the population are members of one of 26 different recognised ethnic minorities – presents a more nuanced picture of the conditions for practicing religion in the People's Republic of China. This article argues that in the case of China we need to expand the concept of implementation by taking into account the public discourse that accompanies the laws and policies on both religion and ethnic minorities. Local officials and intellectuals belonging to ethnic minorities in Yunnan have been successful in exploiting public discourse on 'religious freedom' and 'cultural rights of ethnic minorities' in order to revive or reinvent traditional religious practice.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oslo, Norwegian Centre of Human Rights, Norway affi liated with the China Programme and the China Autonomy Programme (CAP)


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