Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have instituted racial profiling as part of the registration process for new vehicles, in a move that exile groups said was likely a response to recent terror attacks in Europe.
Drivers seeking to register new vehicles for the first time in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, are being required to go through additional processes if they are members of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, or Kazakhs, according to an official notice obtained by RFA.
The two ethnic groups are targeted in a Aug. 21 order issued by the Urumqi traffic police and posted at the Siping branch of the city's Motorized Vehicle Licensing and Testing Department.
"Any drivers of Uyghur or Kazakh ethnicity must report to the Midong No. 2 Vehicle Licensing Office ... for checking before a vehicle registration can be approved," the notice reads.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile group World Uyghur Congress, said he has received reports of similar orders from a number of different locations in Xinjiang in recent days, adding that police have dispatched additional personnel to highways and gas stations in the south of the region and public places.
"Since the series of terror incidents in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, the Chinese government has stepped up controls and surveillance of Uyghur people," Raxit told RFA.
"In particular, they are now carrying out checks in the area of vehicle first registration, purchases and transfers of ownership," he said.
"Any Uyghurs driving a large motorized vehicle in or out of any major city must now provide a reason for their trip and show their ID," Raxit said.
He said such security measures are a clear example of "religious and racial discrimination."
"These checks specifically target Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples," Raxit said. "Whenever a Uyghur wants to fill up their vehicle at a gas station, they are subjected to different treatment [to everyone else]."
'Strike hard' drive hits new groups
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, and sources have told RFA that ethnic Kyrgyz and Kazakhs are now being similarly targeted.
Ethnic Kazakhs say the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang is now targeting Kazakhs across the region, especially those with any overseas connections.
Earlier this month, authorities in Arishan (in Chinese, Wenquan) county of Xinjiang's Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture have sentenced an ethnic Kazakh man to 12 years' imprisonment after detaining him amid an ongoing crackdown on ethnic minority groups who study or seek to emigrate overseas.
Chinese authorities have lately issued orders for ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals to hand in their passports and Kazakh green cards in some parts of Xinjiang, although sources said some local governments have since returned the documents to their owners following recent news coverage.
Meanwhile, border guards are detaining ethnic Kazakhs arriving back in the country with permanent residence cards or passports issued by Kazakhstan, with an estimated 1,500 held in a "political study center" in Yining city, capital of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, sources said.
A Kazakh woman in her forties identitied only by a single name Gulimula had been detained at the Khorgas border crossing, four years after she emigrated to Kazakhstan, her husband told RFA on Wednesday. The whole family hold "green cards" for Kazakhstan.
Gulimula was detained after re-entering China with her husband and three children, and taken to the "political study center" in Yining, he said, adding that the purpose of such "study centers" is to target extremism.
He said some 1,500 "students" are currently being held there, the majority of whom are ethnic minority Kazakhs.
Repeated calls to the Yining municipal government rang unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.
A Kazakh source said the study centers had been used as the next resort following negative media coverage of the widespread confiscation by Chinese authorities of Kazakhstan passports and green cards.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translate and edited by Luisetta Mudie.