Already strict security controls in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have been tightened further following the August appointment of Chen Quanguo, former party boss in neighboring Tibet, as Communist Party secretary, sources say.
Police patrols now work around the clock in the region’s mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur townships, an auxiliary officer in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Qaraqash county told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“I am an auxiliary policeman at the Aqsaray township police station, and our security situation has become more tightly controlled in recent months,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Each village now implements a 24-hour system of police patrols, with four regular police officers and from four to six auxiliary officers forming each patrol,” he said. “Checkpoints have been built across all the townships and even in some of the smaller villages.”
Staffing has been strengthened, too, at police stations in the townships since October, the source said.
“I don’t know the exact numbers of officers at each police station, but I would guess there are around 40 regular policemen and auxiliary officers on duty now at some of the bigger stations,” he said.
Always on call
Also speaking to RFA, an ethnic Uyghur auxiliary policeman in Hotan’s Guma county said that he and other officers are now on call around the clock.
“Before, we worked as auxiliary police for only eight hours a day, just like the regular police, but our hours have dramatically increased since September,” the officer said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“Now, we sometimes work for 15 hours, and sometimes even for 24 hours, without a break. But our salary is still too low.”
“We only earn about 1,300 yuan [U.S.$187, approx.] per month,” he said.
“We auxiliary police and village security personnel take charge of any issue that happens inside the villages, and in an emergency our boss requires that we arrive on the scene within 10 minutes.”
“If we can’t control the situation, we will immediately inform and ask for help from the township police station,” he said.
Searching for suspect persons, police now routinely conduct midnight raids on private Uyghur homes, entering without giving prior notice, an elementary school security guard in Qaraqash told RFA.
“This now happens once or twice every week,” the source said.
“If someone coming from another place wants to visit relatives as a guest, their host must register their personal information at the village committee--their name, their ID number, where they came from, how long they intend to stay, and the purpose of the visit.”
In the same way, anyone wanting to travel outside their township must first get permission from local authorities, RFA’s source said.
“The permission letter must be signed and stamped by the village head, the village party boss, the village political and legal committees, the local police station, and so forth.”
Since taking up his new post as party boss for Xinjiang in October, Chen Quanguo “has implemented many of the security and surveillance policies that he used in Tibet,” Ilshat Hesen, president of the Washington D.C.-based Uyghur American Association, told RFA.
“These failed policies will fail again in the Uyghur region,” Hesen said.
Rights groups accuse 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 regularly vows 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 and translated by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.