MANGSHI, China — Thousands of Chinese Kachin, known locally as Jingpo, took part in a Manau cultural festival in China’s southwest Yunnan province earlier this week. The three-day festival was held at Mangshi in Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture from February 5 to the 7.
More than 14,000 people, many wearing Kachin clothing, danced in front of the Manau Poles during the opening ceremonies held on Sunday.
This year's festival saw many hundreds of Kachin people from neighboring Burma and several hundred more from around the world take part, according to one of the festival organizers.
The Jingpo are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Official figures from the 2000 census put China's Jingpo population at 132,143 people.
This year's festival was held with funds granted by the local government and donations from businessmen and area residents, according to the festival organizer.
Due to the ongoing conflict in Kachin state last month Kachin people in Burma had to forgo their annual Manau festival, usually held to coincide with Kachin State Day on January 10.
Manau festival halted during Cultural Revolution
The annual Manau festival was first held in communist China in 1952. At the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 the festivities were halted. The festival did not resume until 1979.
Currently, the government grants a special autonomous prefecture for Kachin in Yunnan province however China prohibits local Jingpo from taking part in political activities or movements related to self-determination, according to Kachin leaders in Yunnan.
A Kachin magazine producer in China who works in the state-sponsored Kachin-language publication recently told KNG that the monthly magazine and website are strictly controlled by Chinese authorities who censor anything deemed political in nature.
Comparing Kachins in Burma to those in China, a Kachin politician on the Sino-Burma border told Kachin News Group today that "Kachin in China will lose their identity and language in the near future even if they still hold the annual Manau festival. They have no political rights and they cannot decide their own future in the prefecture."
He also criticized China and Burma's military junta saying that the two governments grant some cultural and economic rights to Kachin but they repress them by taking control of their political rights.