On the Protection of the Cultural Rights of Ethnic Minority Prisoners
September 28,2016   By:chinahumanrights.org
Gong Tailei (photo: Zhao Yifan)

On the Protection of the Cultural Rights of Ethnic Minority Prisoners
Gong Tailei 

Associate Professor of the National Police University for Criminal Justice
(Central Institute for Correctional Police, Baoding, Hebei Province, China 071000)
Abstract: The protection of ethnic minority prisoners’ cultural rights is not only an important part of the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, but also directly reflects both the vigor and range of the protection efforts. In contemporary China, where a unified and consistent legal system is called for, how the cultural rights of ethnic minority prisoners under judicial sanction are protected, and the contents and features of the protection mechanism are undoubtedly issues highly worthy of studying. 
In China, criminal policies intended to address criminal offenses by members of ethnic minority communities include certain adaptive clauses in connection with the protection of the rights of ethnic minority inmates. Under such clauses, a certain of flexibility is generally allowed for ethnic minority inmates out of respect for their ethnic customs and practices.
However, current protection of ethnic minority prisoners’ cultural rights is mainly in the form of improving their livelihood and bettering the requisite conditions, which cover such aspects as language option, dietary habits and access to recreation and entertainment. When it comes to the protection of ethnic cultural rights, including respect for religious customs, a more cautious approach has been followed, which is inadequate in terms of consideration and promotion of civilization identification and cultural integration. As for the means by which the cultural rights of ethnic minority inmates are protected, administrative and policy-orientated methods remain dominant, and are mainly orientated toward security and order and controlling risks relating to specific groups. The institutional basis of such methods remain the approach to right protection as is used in “stability maintenance”, which favors passively alleviating and solving problems. If a positive and proactive approach to promoting access by ethnic minority groups to equal rights and achieving social liberty, more wisdom and efforts are still needed.In this regard, how to institutionalize the protection of ethnic inmates’ cultural rights and bring it in line with the rule of law, how to bring into play the function and effect of ethnic inmates’ own voluntary cultural adaptation in judicial correction, and ultimately how to restructure both the actions and values embodied in the protection of ethnic minority inmates’ cultural rights in the context of rational governance of the country on the basis of the rule of law, still remain urgent issues to be addressed in advancing China’s protection of ethnic minority inmates cultural rights.  
Keywords: Ethnic Minority; Cultural Rights; Prisoner