Harsh policies enacted by a newly appointed Communist Party secretary to a Uyghur-populated county in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region are causing great hardship to county residents, while filling a local prison with those found to be in violation of the laws, sources say.
The new regulations, put in place during the last year by Han Chinese official Yang Fasheng, impose fines for “over quota” children born to Uyghur families, allow armed searches of private homes at all times of day or night, and ban marriages conducted according to Islamic custom, sources said.
In February 2015, radio announcements by officials of Kuchar (in Chinese, Kuche) county in Xinjiang’s Aksu (Akesu) prefecture called for the registration of every third or fourth child born to a family after 1990, a local government worker told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“Many parents began to obey the directive,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But after just two weeks, the government began to impose fines of 28,000 yuan [U.S. $4,508] for each unplanned child, and jailed anyone who couldn’t pay,” he said.
“Some parents have now been forced to hide their unregistered children secretly in their homes,” the source said, adding, “I have seen children who look sick from having been hidden away for so long.”
'Model stable county'
Yang Fasheng, secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Kuchar, moved to the county in October 2014 after refusing another appointment, saying that he wanted instead to transform Kuchar into a “model stable county,” RFA’s source said.
Now, Uyghur neighborhoods in Kuchar have been fenced off, with guards stationed at the gates to check the identification of people coming and going, another source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Armed searches of county residences by “special work teams” of government officials and police are now carried out around the clock, with “even teachers and employees of government departments targeted for inspection,” the source said.
Mobile phones and computers are also searched for illegal religious or “separatist” material, or for evidence of politically sensitive information being sent to overseas media, with a three-year prison term imposed for anything like this that is found, an area schoolteacher said.
“We were warned in a meeting that from [October] until March, approximately 2,080 people had been sentenced on this charge,” she said.
RFA was unable to independently verify the cited number of sentencings.
Other restrictions now imposed in Kuchar include bans on the wearing of beards by Uyghur men under 50 years of age, and on the wearing of veils or other face coverings by women, sources told RFA.
Also prohibited are the keeping of Qurans or prayer mats by government employees, with other residences allowed only one Quran and two prayer mats per family.
Bans have also been imposed on marriages conducted according to Islamic tradition, a Kuchar resident said.
“The government has arrested people who were married in Islamic ceremonies, and those found with more than one wife have been handed jail terms of at least three years,” the source said.
“Yang Fasheng’s policies in Kuchar have filled the local prison called 80 Walls, and people arrested in Kuchar are now being sent to prisons in other counties,” he said.
'Strike hard' campaigns
China’s Xinjiang region, which is home to more than 10 million Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, has seen an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012, and which China has blamed on terrorists and Islamist insurgents seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
The “strike hard” campaigns have included police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people in the name of fighting separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism.
Reported by Mihrary Abdilim for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Yeerpan Yakup. Written in English by Richard Finney.