HONG KONG—Authorities have issued a decree subjecting migrant workers in northwestern China to increased security checks following a sensitive national anniversary.
The new regulation, launched on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, requires all migrant workers in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to carry a police-issued statement verifying that he or she is a “law-abiding citizen.”
The regulation also applies to all adult family members of the migrant worker living in the XUAR, according to the Xinjiang Bureau of Residence and Urban and Rural Construction.
The law comes months after ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese set off riots in the region’s capital Urumqi that left 197 dead, according to official media.
A migrant worker surnamed Zhang, who lives in Urumqi but is originally from Lanzhou in neighboring Gansu province, said the law is meant to prevent further unrest in the XUAR capital, still reeling from the July 5 riots.
“The new rule is to ward off criminals and to round up rioters,” Zhang said.
“But it has not yet been fully implemented,” she added.
An employee with Urumqi’s Tianshan district government, who did not provide his name, said the new regulation directly targets terrorists in the XUAR.
“The reason [migrant workers] must request the statement is because the police don’t know where the terrorists are from,” the employee said.
“It seems that not all bad guys are from Xinjiang. People from other places also commit crimes,” he said.
Ordinary citizens affected
Even ordinary residents of Xinjiang are finding it hard to support themselves in the aftermath of the July 5 incident.
Following the riot, many Uyghurs were laid off by their Han Chinese employers and describe a dire job market in the provincial capital.
A Uyghur in Urumqi who gave his name as Alimujiang said he has been forced to find work as a temporary laborer after he was fired from his job.
“I worked as a temporary worker today and I will be paid around 60 or 70 yuan (about U.S. $10). With that money I can probably only buy a can of cooking oil,” Alimujiang said.
“Now the Xinjiang authorities no longer care about our lives,” he said.
Even Han Chinese residents of Urumqi complain of lowered living standards in the capital since July.
One Han Chinese, who did not provide his name but lives in Urumqi, said ordinary residents now lead worse lives, but added that “the situation for officials is 10 times better than before.”
“The salary for CEOs or CFOs in state-owned enterprises has now already skyrocketed to several million yuan (several hundred thousand U.S. dollars) a year,” he added.
Chinese authorities have stepped up a variety of security measures in the XUAR following the July 5 riots and in the lead up to recent National Day celebrations.
Xinjiang's People's Congress Standing Committee recently passed the "Information Promotion Bill," making it a criminal offense to discuss separatism on the Internet following months of ethnic strife.
Communications networks in the troubled region have been closed several times in the wake of the July 5 ethnic violence, and any online discussion of the tensions resulted in blockages and closures of Internet and cell phone networks.
Residents of Urumqi have frequently reported being cut off from the outside world entirely, as the authorities block media and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Armed police now stand guard in public places around the XUAR and are detaining anyone found with footage of ethnic riots that erupted in the regional capital Urumqi last July.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Xinjiang is a strategically crucial vast desert territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The region has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.
Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.