Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have launched a racial profiling campaign to assess the security threat posed by non-Han Chinese majority residents of the capital Urumqi, with points automatically docked for members of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority, according to a local official.
On July 10, the Western Hebei Road Neighborhood Committee in Urumqi’s Yengisheher (in Chinese, Xinshiqu) district circulated a document listing 13 non-Han residents of the area and grading their individual risk to security based on ten categories.
While the title suggests that all non-Han residents of Western Hebei Road had been graded, subsequent mentions of ethnicity on the document only refer to the “Uyghur” minority, and only Uyghurs were listed on the copy obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party blames some Uyghurs for a string of violent attacks and clashes in recent years, but critics say the government has exaggerated the threat from the ethnic group, and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for violence that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
According to the document from the Western Hebei Road Neighborhood Committee, each resident is assigned a 100-point value and 10 points are subtracted from that value for each of the 10 categories that applies to them.
The remaining value for each resident is used to determine the security risk they pose to the community, with anyone rated 80 points or higher designated “safe,” anyone rated between 50 and 70 points seen as “average,” and anyone rated below 50 points considered “unsafe.”
The 10 categories on the form consist of: Between Ages of 15 and 55, Ethnic Uyghur, Unemployed, Possesses Passport, Prays Daily, Possesses Religious Knowledge, Visited [one of] 26 [flagged] Countries, Belated Return to China, Has Association With Foreign Country, and Family With Children Who Are Homeschooled.
Additionally, personal information for each resident is listed on the document, including their name, home address, age and number of family members.
In one example, 85-year-old Ibrahim Ismail (Yibulaying Simayi), was rated an “average” security threat based on a 50-point score after 10 points each were subtracted for being a Uyghur, possessing a passport, praying daily, possessing religious knowledge, and visiting a flagged country.
Another resident, 29-year-old Misir Emet (Misaier Aimaiti), was also rated “average” based on a 70-point score after he lost points for being Uyghur, falling within the “risky” age range, and being unemployed.
While the 11 other residents were rated “safe” with scores of 80 points or more, all of them were docked at least 10 points for being Uyghur.
When contacted by RFA, officials from the Yengisheher district Party Committee and the district government office said they were unfamiliar with the document and referred questions to the area Political Law Committee.
But an official from the Yengisheher district Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee confirmed that the Western Hebei Road Neighborhood Committee had prepared the document and brought it to his office, where it was officially endorsed.
“We examined the content related to religious affairs and compared it to our own findings, and then stamped the document—we also kept one for our records,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We can say that the purpose of this document is to gather general … [and] personal information from the residents in our jurisdiction.”
According to the official, the campaign had been underway for “two to three weeks already,” and “various neighborhood committees” in the district had brought their completed lists to his office for endorsement immediately after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended on June 24 this year.
“I cannot say it is mainly targeting Uyghurs, but I do not know—you can view it however you’d like to,” he said.
“[Neighborhood committee representatives] told us that the document was issued to collect basic information from the residents. That’s all we know. I’m not aware who was responsible for ordering this kind of documentation.”
The official referred further questions about the matter to the county propaganda department.
Being Uyghur is ‘a crime’
Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, told RFA that his group was “extremely concerned” by the document, adding that it was an example of how “extreme” China’s Uyghur policy had become.
“China deems being Uyghur a crime,” he said. “This campaign reminds us of how Nazi Germany first racially profiled Jews, perceiving them as a security threat, and then committed the Holocaust during World War II.”
According to Hassan, the document shows that even Uyghurs who identify predominantly as “Chinese” and abide by the policies of the state will always be viewed as terrorists by the authorities, simply because of their ethnic background.
“The Chinese government doesn’t trust any Uyghur, because … being a Uyghur simply increases [a person’s] threat level, according to the document,” he said.
“The simple fact that China is specifically targeting the Uyghur population and subtracting points for such information clearly demonstrates its intention to enforce ever more repressive policies against the minority group with ethnic cleansing in mind.”
China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.
Reported by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma and Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.