China confiscates passports of Xinjiang people

Chinese authorities have begun confiscating passports from people in the western region of Xinjiang, which has seen regular unrest.

The move, which the government says is aimed at combating “terrorism”, has been criticised by human rights groups.

Many Muslims in Xinjiang say they face widespread discrimination.

The Chinese government is eager to eradicate sporadic violence in the province, which it blames on Islamist militants.

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

Did China’s crackdown on terrorism work?

Uighur men pray in Xinjiang province (13 September 2016)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMost of the Uighur ethnic minority, which makes up about 45% of Xinjiang’s population, practise the Muslim faith

Uighurs, which makes up about 45% of Xinjiang’s population, have often complained about being refused documents allowing them to travel.

In June police in Xinjiang ordered residents to provide DNA samples and other biological data when applying for travel documents.

Under the new regulations all people in Xinjiang are required to hand in their travel documents to police for “safekeeping”.

The BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing says that all residents must now apply for permission to leave the country before they can retrieve their passports.

map of China showing Xinjiang and its capital city Urumqi, bordered by Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Human Rights Watch has described this as a violation of freedom of movement.

The World Uyghur Congress says that although the new measures are ostensibly aimed at all residents, they will in effect target the Uighur community.

Over the years China’s authorities have attributed attacks to Uighur militants, who they say are inspired or aided by foreign terror groups.

Uighur leaders have denied being behind the violence.

An Uighur man minding a fruit stand in Kasghar, file pic from 2003Image copyrightAFP

Uighurs and Xinjiang

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of Xinjiang’s population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control in 1949 after crushing the short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear that their traditional culture will be eroded

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

  • China: Xinjiang government to ‘clear up’ ethnic names
    8 July 2016
  • Chinese police require DNA for passports in Xinjiang
    7 June 2016
  • China police checkpoint attack ‘kills 18′ in Xinjiang
    24 June 2015
  • China hails crackdown on terror in Xinjiang
    27 May 2015
  • China ‘breaks Turkish-Uighur passport plot’
    14 January 2015
  • The colourful propaganda of Xinjiang
    12 January 2015
  • Xinjiang: Has China’s crackdown on ‘terrorism’ worked?
    2 January 2015
  • Xinjiang territory profile
    17 November 2016



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