Xinjiang's Universities Force New Push in 'Political Education'

uyghur-mosque-2013.gif A mosque in Turpan city in Xinjiang, June 27, 2013.

Universities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have begun a new push to strengthen faculty  loyalty to Beijing, with instructors forced to write papers promoting “ethnic unity” and praising initiatives of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, sources said.

The move beginning Aug. 15 has introduced a range of new demands and has shortened the time available to instructors for summer break, one teacher in Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim south told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“This year our summer break was cut short, and political studies have already begun,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are writing and studying papers expressing support for [Chinese] president Xi Jinping’s call to prevent Western ideology from entering the schools, along with various other directives sent out by the Education Ministry.”

“This is our present situation, and it will be the same on Teachers’ Day, Sept. 10, when we usually get a day off,” he said.

“Our own course of political studies began on Aug. 15,” another teacher said, speaking from Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi.

“We are learning how to curb our students’ inclinations toward religion, stamp out religious extremism, and promote ethnic unity [between Uyghurs and Han Chinese],” he said.

Calls seeking comment from several Xinjiang universities rang unanswered, but one Xinjiang teacher told RFA that faculty had been warned against speaking in interviews or taking phone calls from abroad.

In an Aug. 11 posting, however, the website of southwestern Xinjiang’s Kashgar University boasted “increased political education and ethnic unity education” as school achievements in a quote by university president Erkin Omer, speaking to Han students visiting from China’s Jilin province.

Obstacles to advancement

Strict political requirements have meanwhile created obstacles for teachers seeking advancement on the basis of academic accomplishments alone, one Xinjiang instructor told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“These have made it difficult for me to get a professor’s title, or even an associate professorship, so I had to give this up,” he said.

“Because some of my students were found praying, I was disqualified twice,” he said.

“Many teachers have left their posts, and some have gone abroad. I might apply for early retirement as well because of the stress over politics.”

Faced with growing assertions of Uyghur national identity in Xinjiang, China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in the group’s traditional homeland, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the Uyghur people’s culture and language.

But experts outside China say that Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur "separatists" and that Chinese domestic policies are largely responsible for instability in the region.

Reported by Mihray Abdilim for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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