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Cablegate: Fujian's Minorities: Hard to Distinguish but Still

VZCZCXRO6510
RR RUEHC
DE RUEHGZ #0544/01 2580923
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150923Z SEP 09 ZDK
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0920
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0258
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0717
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0197
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0207
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0198
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0269
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0193
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC 0031
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0060
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0247
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0243

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000544

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EAP/TC, INR/EAP, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV SOCI SCUL CH
SUBJECT: Fujian's Minorities: Hard To Distinguish But Still
Collecting Benefits

GUANGZHOU 00000544 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary. Fujian's two largest ethnic minorities-the She
and the Hui-are already visually indistinguishable from their Han
neighbors and appear to have lost or are rapidly losing culturally
distinctive characteristics. This is especially the case with the
urban She and the Hui minority members living near Quanzhou. Still
the She and the Hui have no qualms about accepting affirmative
action-type benefits extended to minorities. Under the confusing
definition of what constitutes an ethnic minority in China, the
Hakka of southern Fujian are not considered a minority. They are
classified as a subgroup of the Han majority. Nonetheless, the
Hakka retain a distinctive language, a proud heritage linked with
unusual architecture, and a deeply entrenched consciousness of being
"different." End summary.

2. (U) During several visits to Fujian in August and September, TD
Off met with representatives of and experts on the She and Hui
minority groups and the Hakka people of southern Fujian. The She(or
Sanhak, as they refer to themselves) represent Fujian's largest
ethnic minority group. The 375,000 She living in Fujian constitute
approximately 53% of China's total She population. The
approximately 100,000 Hui descendants of Arabic and Persian traders
who followed the maritime Silk Road and settled near Quanzhou during
the fifteenth century constitute the second largest ethnic minority
in Fujian. Populations of other ethnic minority groups in Fujian
are comparatively small, although 53 out of China's 55 ethnic
minority groups are represented in Fujian.

Impossible to Distinguish
-------------------------

3. (U) Fujian's She and Hui ethnic minority members do not wear any
distinctive costumes or clothing. Without distinguishing physical
characteristics, the She and Hui people are virtually impossible to
distinguish from their Han neighbors. Many of Fujian's She people
still reside in rural villages scattered in mountainous areas near
Ningde and Fuzhou. For economic reasons more than ethnicity
(because the She farmers remain relatively impoverished), Han
neighbors have viewed the She as undesirable marriage partners. She
people living in urban areas, however, like the Hui, have
intermarried with the dominant Han to the extent that they have
almost completely been assimilated by the dominant culture.
Demonstrating the degree of intermarriage among the Hui and Han,
three Hui interlocutors in one Hui village told us that their
spouses are Han.

4. (U) While the rural She still maintain distinctive traditions
including story-telling songs and a unique form of martial arts,
these traditions have been lost among the urban She. According to
one She minority representative, only a dwindling number of elderly,
urban She maintain beliefs in traditional She "superstitions." In
actuality, only the family names that are traditionally associated
with the She people serve to perpetuate a diminishing sense of
separate identity. Hui minority representatives told us that
although the Hui people still claim and assert the right to a
Muslim-style in-ground burial (a privilege not afforded others),
almost all of Fujian's Hui do not observe other Islamic traditions
relating to food and religious practice, nor are they schooled in
Arabic. Many of Fujian's Hui have adopted Buddhist, Taoist, or
Christian religious beliefs. Most eat pork. According to one Hui
elder, when one Hui delegate went to Beijing to attend the Chinese
People's Political Consultative Conference, the delegate was
distressed to find that because of his Hui heritage, he had been
assigned to the Halal cafeteria. Linguistically, most of Quanzhou's
Hui residents speak the Minnan language of southern Fujian. Their
identity is linked with Minnan culture, not Islamic culture.

5. (SBU) Academics from Xiamen University told TD Off that
beginning in the late 1990s, a few individuals within the Hui
community began "re-identifying" with their Muslim roots. The
scholars speculated that this likely had more to do with pursing
business opportunities with the Muslim world than with a desire to
reconnect with religious roots. When asked if Fujian's Hui
community maintained any special links with other Muslim communities
within China or abroad, Hui villagers provided TD Off with a tour of
their local cemetery. Within the cemetery were approximately one
dozen gravesites, most with tombstones inscribed in Arabic, of
Muslims from other parts of China and the world who had passed away

GUANGZHOU 00000544 002 OF 002


in Xiamen. The same villagers recalled that six or seven years ago,
a wealthy businessman from some Arabic-speaking country visited
their village and donated tables and chairs to Hui residents of the
village. When asked if they had followed reports of ethnic unrest
in Urumqi, the Hui of Chen Tang village said they were not aware as
they rarely watched the news. They, as did Hui villagers of Bai Qi
near Quanzhou, indicated they felt no special affinity for or
connection with other Muslim ethnic groups in China or elsewhere.

Affirmative action - Chinese style
----------------------------------

6. (U) Like other minority groups in China, the She and Hui people
are exempted from the one-child policy; they are allowed to have two
children. She and Hui villagers noted there were other privileges
that were extended to them based on their minority group status.
These include 10 bonus or preferential points on the national
College Entrance Exam or 20 bonus or preferential points when
applying to Fujian-based educational institutions. Minority
residents are also entitled to a 600 RMB/year educational allowance
for children. When asked if there were any downsides to their
minority status (i.e., discrimination), She and Hui representatives
said they thought at present the positives outweighed the
negatives.

Not a minority, but definitely different - the Hakka
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (U) Considered to be a sub-group within the Han majority, the
Hakka of southern Fujian began arriving in the area more than 1,000
years ago when war and turmoil drove them from their homes in
Central China. As newcomers, the Hakka clustered in mountainous
areas in Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces where they
developed a unique style of architecture-massive, multi-story
earthen round (and square) houses. Originally built as easily
secured fortresses that could be shuttered to protect from natural
and human threats, the distinctive structures also served to foster
a strong sense of clan and family identity. The Hakka have thrived
in southern Fujian. Tightly-knit and keenly aware of their distinct
heritage, the Hakka have become a powerful economic and social force
in the areas which they inhabit. Hakka communities, said several of
our Hakka interlocutors, have grown stronger and increasingly
Hakka-as the economically prosperous Hakka have bought out many of
their non-Hakka neighbors.

8. (U) The Hakka have special words-mostly derogatory-to describe
their non-Hakka neighbors. The Hakka language serves to heighten a
sense of distinct cultural identity. Unlike the Hui, the Hakka do
not generally speak the Minnan language, and they do not identify
themselves as Minnan people. Although most of our Hakka
interlocutors said that Hakka were free to intermarry with non-Hakka
people, other observers have noted that matriarchal tradition within
Hakka culture often places pressure on females to marry within the
group.

9. (SBU) Comment. Ethnicity can be a confusing concept, and it
certainly is in China where even the Han majority is descended from
a gene pool that includes a variety of nomadic groups. It is
confusing concept in Fujian, too, where the largest recognized
minority groups have been largely assimilated by the Han but where
another group, the Hakka that prides itself in being different is
considered to be a part of the Han majority. Because Fujian's
minorities look "Han," it seems remarkable that there is presently
so little resentment among the Han about the special privileges that
are extended to these virtually indistinguishable minorities. End
comment.

GOLDBECK

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