Life has never been easy for Uyghurs, unwilling subjects of China, whose land – strategically located in Central Asia – is rich in oil and other natural resources coveted by Chinese industry. Uyghurs have long complained of discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.

But few residents of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had bargained for Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who came to power in August 2016 and has rolled out one harsh policy after another targeting the Muslim Uyghurs, using many of the same tactics he pioneered to suppress ethnic Tibetans in his previous post as Party Secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Chen’s administration has deployed a vast surveillance system throughout Xinjiang, tracking the movements of ordinary Uyghurs. Authorities raid Uyghur households, restrict Islamic practices, force Uyghurs to get written permits to travel outside their villages, and place curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people. Under a particularly intrusive program called “becoming kin,” Uyghur households “adopt” Han Chinese officials who monitor local residents and promote Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang. Under the program, 1.1 million Han Chinese officials have been placed with 1.6 million Uyghur families, according to an official report.

China blames some Uyghurs for "terrorist" attacks and says many were radicalized through foreign contacts, but experts say the threat is exaggerated. Thousands of Uyghurs accused of having "extremist" and "politically incorrect" views – as well as those who have lived or worked abroad – have been detained without trial in political re-education camps throughout Xinjiang. Students of Islam who were sent to study in Egypt with official blessing have since been rounded up and forcefully repatriated.

With this project, we aim to lay out Chen’s systematic efforts to turn the region into a police state, and to describe the ways in which his curbs on the liberties of everyday Uyghurs are violating China’s own constitution.


Xinjiang Introduces ‘Convenience Police Stations’ to Closely Monitor Uyghurs

Uyghurs say the non-stop surveillance smacks of the totalitarian policies of the mid-20th century. Read more...

Xinjiang’s ‘Open Letters’ Drive Forces Uyghurs to Put Loyalty to China in Writing

Residents see reminders of the Cultural Revolution era’s forced confessions and denunciations. Read more...

Xinjiang Party Boss Ramps Up Ancient Control Methods to Make Uyghurs Spy on Their Neighbors

Villages are organized in units, sharing collective responsibility for monitoring and reporting misdeeds. Read more...

Xinjiang Authorities Push Uyghurs to Marry Han Chinese or Take in State-Assigned Chinese ‘Relatives’

Reluctant Uyghurs receive visits, eat meals with strangers lined up by the government. Read more...

Xinjiang’s Government Gives Uyghurs Passports, Only to Take Them Away Later

Uyghurs who bought homes or built businesses abroad suffer losses and many returnees face detention. Read more...

Xinjiang’s ‘List of Forbidden Names’ Forces Uyghurs to Change Names of Children Under 16

Popular names considered overtly Islamic are put on a banned list, causing anger and confusion. Read more...

China’s Harsh Policies Toward Uyghurs

Who Are The Uyghurs?

“Our Families Face Tremendous Pressure”




Examples of various policies toward Uyghurs in Xinjiang that appear to violate key articles of the People's Republic of China's Constitution.

Article 4

All nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal.

Uyghurs Left Waiting While Han Chinese Bypass Checkpoints in Xinjiang’s Hotan City

Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have set up special “green lanes” for ethnic Han Chinese drivers to bypass security on roads leading into Hotan city, sources said, while Muslim Uyghurs must submit to inspections that include ID checks and body searches. Read more...

China Bans Use of Uyghur, Kazakh Textbooks, Materials in Xinjiang Schools

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have banned the use of ethnic minority languages in schools in at least one part of the region, RFA has learned. Read more...

China's Mass Detention of Xinjiang's Ethnic Minorities Shows No Sign of Let-up

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang are continuing their wave of arrests of ethnic minority Kazakhs and Uyghurs, sources in the region told RFA on Wednesday. Read more...

Nearly Half of Uyghurs in Xinjiang’s Hotan Targeted For Re-Education Camps

Authorities in a county of northwest China’s Xinjiang region that is largely populated by Muslim ethnic Uyghurs have been ordered to send almost half of area residents to re-education camps, according to officials, who say they are struggling to meet the quota. Read more...

Former Xinjiang Judge Tried on 'Ethnic Hatred' Charges

Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang on Tuesday tried a retired judge in a quasi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp brigade, or bingtuan, on suspicion of "incitement to racial hatred." Read more...

China Detains Dozens Of Ethnic Kazakhs Who Watched Kanat Islam Fight

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have detained more than 50 members of the Kazakh ethnic group after they watched video of a world-class boxing match featuring welterweight Kanat Islam, sources told RFA on Thursday. Read more...

Urumqi Officials Confirm Security Checks For Uyghur, Kazakh Vehicle Registrants

Authorities in the capital of northwestern China’s Xinjiang region are requiring all ethnic Uyghur and Kazakh individuals to undergo a stringent background check before registering a vehicle in the city, official sources have confirmed. Read more...

Article 13

Citizens' lawful private property is inviolable.

Authorities Require Uyghurs in Xinjiang’s Aksu to Get Barcodes on Their Knives

Authorities in Aksu prefecture in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have begun implementing a government policy to affix identification codes to knives belonging to Uyghurs as a futher security measure in the restive area, sources from the prefecture said. Read more...

Article 35

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.

Prominent Uyghur Musician Arrested Amid Ideological Purge in Xinjiang

Popular Uyghur singer and musician Abdurehim Heyit has been arrested without official explanation by authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, sources say. Read more...

Article 36

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

Xinjiang’s Korla City Seizes Qurans, Prayer Mats From Uyghur Muslims

Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region are confiscating Qurans and prayer mats from Muslim Uyghurs in the seat of Bayin’gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, according to official sources. Read more..

China Detains, Brainwashes 'Wild' Imams Who Step Out of Line in Xinjiang

Authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have launched a crackdown on "wild" imams, incarcerating and brainwashing any who refuse to toe the line set by the ruling Chinese Communist Party's religious affairs officials, sources told RFA on Monday. Read more...

Chinese Police Order Xinjiang's Muslims to Hand in All Copies of The Quran

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have ordered ethnic minority Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the authorities, RFA has learned. Read more...

China Shutters Islamic Bookstore in Beijing, Detains Owner on 'Terrorism' Charges

Authorities in Beijing have shut down a well-known Islamic bookstore and publishing house and detained its founder on "terrorism" charges amid a nationwide security operation ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly congress this month. Read more...

Re-Education Camps in Two Xinjiang Counties Hold Thousands of Uyghurs: Officials

Re-education camps in two counties in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, where mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs have protested Beijing’s rule, house thousands of “politically incorrect” inmates who are rarely freed despite undergoing months of “training,” according to sources. Read more...

Uyghur Woman Handed 10-Year Prison Term Over Headscarf Claim

A Chinese court in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region has jailed a young Uyghur woman for 10 years over claims by a friend that she had promoted the wearing of headscarves, a form of Islamic dress increasingly restricted by Chinese authorities, sources say. Read more...

China Runs Region-wide Re-education Camps in Xinjiang for Uyghurs And Other Muslims

Thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are being held in re-education camps without contact with their families under a policy designed to counter extremism in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, local officials told RFA’s Uyghur Service. Read more...

China Holds Ethnic Kazakh Students For Praying, Islamic Clothing, Overseas Study

Authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang are believed to be holding a number of ethnic minority Kazakhs for wearing "Islamic" clothing and praying, a practice forbidden by the ruling Chinese Communist Party on university campuses across the country. Read more...

Article 37

Freedom of the person of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable.

Families of Uyghur Police Officers Among Those Detained in Xinjiang’s Kashgar

Family members of ethnic Uyghur security personnel in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, who authorities had previously considered “off limits,” are among those now being detained as part of “stability” measures the officers have been tasked with enforcing, according to sources. Read more...

Nearly 20 Uyghur Students Unaccounted For Four Months After Egypt Raids

Nearly 20 Uyghur students in Egypt’s capital Cairo are unaccounted for some four months after authorities launched a dragnet targeting members of the ethnic minority at China’s behest, according to two of the young men, who said they endured regular abuse while in detention. Read more...

Article 38

The personal dignity of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable.

Xinjiang Residents Told to Hand Over ‘Two-Faced’ Officials

Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang are urging citizens to turn in ethnic Uyghur workers in government and other public sectors suspected of disloyalty toward Chinese policies in the politically sensitive region, sources say. Read more...

Uyghur ‘Political Criminals’ Jailed Without Trial in Xinjiang’s Kashgar Prefecture

Authorities in Kashgar prefecture, in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, are convicting ethnic Uyghur “political criminals” without trial and are notifying their families only after sentencing them to prison, according to sources. Read more...

‘More Than 30’ Relatives of Uyghur Exile Leader Rebiya Kadeer Detained in Xinjiang

Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have detained more than 30 relatives of exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer in recent months, including two sons who were previously jailed on charges related to “secessionist activities” and “tax evasion,” she said Friday. Read more...

Elderly Among Thousands of Uyghurs Held in Xinjiang Re-Education Camps

Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region are including the elderly among thousands of ethnic Uyghurs placed under investigation for religious “extremism” in a vast network of political re-education camps, according to sources. Read more...

Children of Detained Uyghurs Face ‘Terrible’ Conditions in Overcrowded Xinjiang Orphanages

Uyghur children whose parents or guardians have been detained in political re-education camps are being held in "terrible" conditions in orphanages in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, and overcrowding has forced authorities to send them to facilities in the country’s inner provinces, according to sources. Read more...

Uyghur Women and Children Endure Heavy Labor Amid Detentions in Xinjiang’s Hotan

Ethnic Uyghur Women and children from Hotan prefecture, in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, are being forced to endure heavy labor to make up for wages lost by the men in their families who are detained in re-education camps, according to sources. Read more...

Uyghurs in Xinjiang Re-Education Camps Forced to Express Remorse Over Travel Abroad

Authorities in Korla city, in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, are detaining ethnic Uyghurs in re-education camps for traveling overseas and are refusing to free them until they admit it was “wrong” to have left the country, according to a security official. Read more...

Photo Gallery

Police State
Uyghur Celebrities
Uyghur Musician

Timeline of Chen Quanguo’s Uyghur Region Policy

since late August 2016

  • 1. Region-wide physical checkups

    (Sept 2016 – Oct 2017)

    • Obligatory health checkups

    • Collection of blood and DNA samples

    • Establishment of individual health archives

  • 2. “Police state” policy of expanded police presence

    (Late 2016 - mid-2017)

    • Security checkpoints

    • “Convenience police stations”

    • Watchtowers in settled areas

    • Dramatic increase in police forces

  • 3. “Uyghur-Chinese One Relative” policy

    (Started on October 2016)

    • Uyghur-Han intermarriage promotion

    • Assimilation strategy

  • 4. “Open letter” movement

    (Begun with the “open letter” by Obulqasim Mettursun which was published in the Xinjiang Daily on March 25, 2017)

    • Uyghur party cadres, government officials, clergy, intellectuals obligated to publish letters professing gratitude and loyalty to the Communist Party, renouncing their Turkic identity, Islamic religious beliefs, and historical separate independent existence and denouncing ethnic separatism and “two-faced” Uyghurs who maintain their ethnic identity.

  • 5. Confiscation of passports

    (April 2016 in southern parts of the Uyghur Region, and June in the regional capital Urumqi)

    • Confiscation of local Uyghurs’ passports

    • Obligatory return of Uyghurs studying abroad

    • Strict controls of money transfers to and from foreign countries

  • 6. Spy networks established throughout Uyghur areas

    (Beginning in mid-2016)

    “Ten-households, one-unit” policy under which every group of 10 households watch one another to prevent suspicious activities and all 10 households face collective punishment for infractions by any one member

    • Offering rewards for information on suspicious persons and activities

    • Neighbors ordered to watch and report on each other

  • 7. Ban on Islamic names

    (July 2017)

    • List of “Forbidden Names” published

    • Ban imposed on most sensitive 29 Islamic names

    • Ban imposed retroactively requiring parents to change children’s names

  • 8. Strict control over mosques and Islamic rituals

    (April 2017)

    • “Standardization of mosques”

    • Politicizing religious duas (prayers) and sermon content

    • Confiscation and destruction of Uyghur-language Qurans published before 2012

    • Confiscation of prayer rugs and other religious articles

  • 9. Re-education camps for Uyghurs returning from abroad or with relatives outside China

    (April 2017)

    • Camps are euphemistically named “socialism institutes” or “professional vocation schools”

    • Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are placed in camps with little advance notice and are unable to contact their families

    • Women and children are left to tend crops and do other heavy labor

  • 10. Ban on Uyghur language education

    (July 2017)

    • Uyghur language instruction removed from school curriculum in Hotan

    • Uyghur language instruction halted in primary schools and middle schools

  • 11. Inter-ethnic relocation policy

    (August 2017)

    Campaign to press Uyghurs to live in Han Chinese neighborhoods and vice-versa

  • 12. Collection of Uyghur residents’ private information

    (April 1, 2017)

  • 13. Launch of “Red propaganda Teams” for Uyghur artists and writers

    (September 2017)