External Review of the project on the Study of China’s Regional National Autonomy System (2003 – 2008)

About the publication

  • Published: October 2009
  • Series: Norad Collected Reviews
  • Type: --
  • Carried out by: Hugo Stokke, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and Lihong Huang, NOVA
  • Commissioned by: Norad
  • Country: China
  • Theme: Governance and democracy, Human rights, Civil society, Culture and sports
  • Pages: 50
  • Serial number: 8/2009
  • ISBN: 978-82-7548-435-0
  • ISSN: --
Report frontpage
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.

The Project

The China Autonomy Programme (CAP) of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights has aimed to study ways and means for protecting and promoting the interests of the national minority population in the Chinese legal and political system, including aspects related to linguistic minorities and cultural development. The review studies the second phase of the programme from 2003 to 2008, funded with NOK 13.3 mill. The project resulted in four research publications, however all in Chinese only. In English language, the Beijing-Oslo Recommendations on the Protection of the Rights of Linguistic Minorities may be viewed as the most significant output from the CAP in terms of policy influence. The Beijing-Oslo recommendations will be included in a small subset of research under the project, to be published as a special issue of the International Journal of Minority and Group Rights.


Interesting Findings

  • The main goals of the CAP, i.e. the study of ways and means of promoting minority rights in the Chinese legal and political system, have been achieved. The project has contributed knowledge and insights for the benefit of the ongoing Sino-Norwegian human rights dialogue. It has also contributed to raising the subject of minority rights as part of the dialogue. The overall expenditure seems justified in terms of project goals.
  • The studies have opened up a field of study which by and large has been neglected. The project has successfully combined legal and social science perspectives. It has also overcome the difference between Chinese and European research traditions by emphasizing empirical investigation. Publications in Chinese have good academic quality and serve as reference works in the field. They have set a minimum international research standard for the Chinese researchers involved. The project has trained a substantial group of young researchers, and has also raised awareness about minority issues beyond the people directly involved in the project, i.e. researchers elsewhere and policy-makers in China.
  • The results from the project have not been widely disseminated internationally. So far, English language reports from the project include few contributions from Chinese researchers. An eventual continuation of the project should provide opportunities for Chinese researchers to enjoy more international exposure.
  • At central government level, the project has involved the Chinese Ethnic Affairs Commission of State Council (SEAC), the highest state administrative organ for minority affairs, which has a central role to play in China’s law making at the top level. It is claimed that the project has made an imprint on the new Human Rights Plan, albeit without any clear evidence to this effect. Any impact so far on policy at the top level is likely to have been limited and indirect.
  • There were considerable delays in the implementation of Phase 2 which may be an indication of overload on the part of project staff, in addition to external factors. Efficiency might have been enhanced by completing one project before starting the next, though there are valid reasons for the decisions made by project management.
  • The momentum created by the project should be maintained. Continued cooperation in some form is recommended, in accordance with Norwegian foreign policy towards China related to the building of competence among Norwegian researchers, and to strengthen the knowledge base of the dialogue process. An eventual Phase 3 should be focused on one overriding theme. Adequate administrative support should be budgeted for, in order to free up time for the main project personnel to do more substantive research work.
Published 15.10.2009
Last updated 16.02.2015