Authorities in the southern province of Guangdong have fined the manager of a hotel in the border city of Shenzhen for breaking a ban on ethnic minority Uyghur guests ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly congress later this month.
An employee who answered the phone on Monday at the hotel in Shenzhen's Lo Wu district, near the internal border with Hong Kong, confirmed the fine.
"According to rules set by the local police station, we had to pay a fine for accepting a guest from Xinjiang," the employee said, in a euphemistic reference to the mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghur ethnic group.
"Security has been much tighter now that it's the 19th party congress, and there is a ban on people from Xinjiang," she said, adding that the hotel had been fined 15,000 yuan (U.S. $2,260) for breaking the rule.
"I know that you can't generalize about an entire group of people, and that any group has bad people in it, but we are being told [by police] that we can't have guests from Xinjiang."
An employee in a sauna in Shenzhen's Futian district said all service businesses had been required to demand IDs from customers since late September, as part of new security regulations linked to the 19th Party Congress.
The details would be immediately available to police via a shared database, and police could veto any guests they believed to be a threat, the employee said.
"They definitely have to register, and we can't have people from Xinjiang, but Han Chinese from Xinjiang can come in once they have registered," the employee said.
An employee who answered the phone at the Dongpu Tianhe branch of the 7Days Inn hotel chain in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou confirmed the ban was across the hospitality industry.
"For the time being, we can't accept Uyghur guests," the employee said.
The ban appears to have been imposed nationwide, with an employee who answered the phone at the Senlin Commercial Hotel in the central city of Zhengzhou, in central China's Henan province, confirming that similar rules are in force there.
"Not at the moment ... only Han Chinese," the employee said, when asked if the hotel was accepting Uyghur guests. "This started on National Day [on Oct. 1] and has been that way ever since."
"There have been similar requirements in the past, but they weren't quite as strict as this," he said.
China's nationwide "stability maintenance" regime is no stranger to ethnic profiling.
Last week, Uyghurs in Xinjiang's Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) city, said there are now special "green lanes" for Han Chinese drivers to bypass security on roads leading into the city, while Muslim Uyghurs submit to inspections that include ID checks and body searches.
One Uyghur businessman told RFA’s Uyghur Service that similar checkpoints with separate lanes “are everywhere” leading into Hotan city—the seat of Hotan prefecture, where two deadly attacks took place in Qaraqash (Moyu) county in December 2016 and in Guma (Pishan) county in February this year.
Beijing blames some Uyghurs for a string of violent attacks and clashes in China in recent years, but critics say the government has exaggerated the threat from the ethnic group, and that repressive domestic policies targeting their religion and culture are responsible for violence that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Previously, Tibetans and Uyghurs have been placed on security watchlists when they seek hotel rooms in major Chinese cities during periods of high alert, with staff informing local police stations when they try to check in.
However, the bans were previously applied more unevenly across the country, with some Han Chinese residents of Xinjiang telling RFA that they have faced similar security restrictions because of their place of residence.
Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang have brought in new security rules restricting the sale of kitchen knives, local residents told RFA.
"When we buy a knife, we have to register [with our name and ID card number]," a resident of Hotunsumul (Hejing) county, in Xinjiang's Bayin'gholin Mongol (Bayinguoleng Menggu) Autonomous Prefecture, told RFA. "There is a QR code embossed on every knife now."
The new rules began to be introduced "a few months ago," and are enforced by police, he said.
Meat vendors at markets in the county, and in neighboring counties in the prefecture, are also gradually having their knives and choppers stamped with identifying codes, according to a post on the local police department's official WeChat account.
Reported by Qiao Long and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.