Tight security restrictions in ethnic Uyghur areas of northwestern China’s restive Xinjiang region are being extended into the new year, with police carrying out daily patrols in villages and checking the identification of worshippers at mosques, Uyghur sources say.
Patrols in one township in Guma (in Chinese, Pishan) county in the western prefecture of Hotan (Hetian) are now carried out “day and night,” a Mokuyla township police officer told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“In our patrols, we include one official policeman, three members of the auxiliary police, and 10 militia members from each village that we inspect,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“At night, we patrol until 2:00 a.m., and we stop anyone found walking around so that we can check their backgrounds and identification,” he said, adding that daytime patrols also look in on at least five village families each day.
“We ask how many people currently live in their homes, whether any family members have left the area, and whether any fire hazards are present,” he said.
Police also investigate residents’ guests to see if they have come from out of town, with police confiscating visitors’ identification cards until they have returned to their own homes, he said.
Village residents wishing to visit relatives or seek medical treatment in other places must first obtain a letter from village police describing past political involvements, the officer said.
“They will then bring that letter to our office, and we will enter everything into a data base,” he said.
“If we find nothing wrong, we will stamp the letter for approval, and they will then take that to the township’s political law office. There, they will receive their so-called ‘green card’ allowing them to travel,” he said.
In neighboring Aksu (Akesu) prefecture to the north, government workers also check the identification papers of Uyghur worshippers as they enter local mosques for Friday prayers, a cadre in Aksu's Awat (Awati) county told RFA, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“We cannot allow anyone from out of town to pray in our town’s mosques unless they are registered in town as someone’s guest,” he said.
Students, government workers, teachers, and members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party are not allowed to enter the mosques at all, he said.
Members of these restricted groups are also barred from taking part in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, he said.
“We cannot allow any of them to fast,” he said.
“We find out if any students are fasting by conducting ‘tea drinking campaigns,’” he said, adding that the neighbors of government workers and students are also questioned regarding the behavior of those living near them.
“If we find that any Party members are fasting, we will carry out political education work and give them a warning,” he said.
Rights groups accuse the Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
China has vowed to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang.
But experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur separatists, and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.
Reported by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Richard Finney.