Ethnic Uyghur police officers in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Region are being paid less than a third of salaries offered as part of a recent recruitment drive for majority Han Chinese security personnel from other parts of the country, according to sources.
Several county governments in Xinjiang’s Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture have bolstered the ranks of their security personnel since February, when authorities shot dead three Uyghurs who attacked passersby with knives in Guma (Pishan) county, killing five and injuring five others.
Hiring announcements from the governments of Keriye (Yutian) and Chira (Cele) counties, and Atush city (Atushi), called for increases of between 80 and 300 mostly Uyghur auxiliary police, offering salaries of around 3,000 yuan (U.S. $435) per month—often with added benefits, such as medical insurance.
However, the government of Aktu (Aketao) county, in neighboring Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, set a new standard in the region when it announced on March 31 that it was urgently seeking 600 Han Chinese police from outside of Xinjiang at considerably higher rates.
According to the announcement, successful applicants with university diplomas will earn 9,064 yuan (U.S. $1,316) per month, while those with high school diplomas will earn 8,886 yuan (U.S. $1,290). Both are eligible to receive yearly bonuses of up to 9,400 yuan (U.S. $1,365).
Additionally, married applicants will be given a free apartment, at which any of their family members can reside, while unmarried applicants will be housed in dormitories free of charge and provided with three meals each day.
The announcement came on the same day that the prefecture’s party secretary, Liu Huijun, published an open letter urging Kyrgyz herdsmen to take on a “political mission” to protect the borders to ensure stability in the restive area where Uyghurs often balk at heavy-handed tactics by the Chinese to suppress their culture, language, and religion. Many try to cross the border into Kyrgyzstan.
A Han-Chinese staff member at the Human Resources and Social Security Department of the Aktu government confirmed to RFA’s Uyghur Service that the recruitment drive was underway.
“Yes, we announced to public that our county urgently needs to employ 600 patrol police from inner provinces, such as Gansu, Shanxi, Henan and Sichuan,” said the staff member, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The employees will be provided with high salaries—the same amount as you see in the announcement.”
According to the staff member, the Aktu government organized two teams and sent them to recruit outside of Xinjiang.
“The first team is going to Gansu, Shanxi, and Shaanxi provinces and the second team is going to Sichuan, Henan, and Hunan provinces,” he said.
“They have already started to hire.”
The salaries announced by the Aktu government are considerably higher than those offered to the mostly Uyghur security personnel of roughly the same rank in Hotan, where authorities are equally concerned about the threat of “terrorism,” or in other parts of Xinjiang.
But Uyghur police officers contacted by RFA, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, often said that they were rarely compensated even at the level that county governments in Hotan and elsewhere had promised new hires in their recent recruitment drives.
A Uyghur auxiliary officer in Siyek township, in Hotan’s Keriye county, where a Feb. 16 hiring announcement called for 254 auxiliary police—204 of which should be Uyghurs and the other 50 Han Chinese—said he had been told he would receive 4,000 yuan (U.S. $581) per month and a 24-hour break after completing every 24 hours of patrol work.
“We haven’t rested in nearly three months and we never received the 4,000 yuan we were promised,” he said.
“Our monthly salary is 2,589 yuan (U.S. $376), plus 400 yuan (U.S. $58) for meal expenses.”
Another Uyghur auxiliary officer in Mokuylay township, in Hotan’s Guma county, where the Feb. 14 knife attack occurred, told RFA that he and his Uyghur coworkers make only 1,300 yuan (U.S. $189) each month.
“We have no other income,” he added.
A Uyghur auxiliary officer in Aqsaray township, in Hotan’s Karakash (Moyu) county, said the local government had been recruiting security personnel since last year, with the only requirement for applicants being that no one within three generations of their family had been involved in “political problems.”
But authorities have not followed through on promises of comfortable salaries they made during the hiring drive, the officer said.
“Our monthly salary is 1,200 yuan (U.S. $174), plus 150 yuan (U.S. $22) for meal expenses,” he said.
“We don’t get any overtime pay if we pull a 24-hour shift—not even if we work 48 hours.”
A Uyghur patrol officer at the Qaraqash county Education Department in Hotan told RFA he earns only 1,500 yuan (U.S. $218) per month, despite having worked there for four years.
“It’s a very low income for a family with three kids,” he said.
“I’ve complained many times to my superior asking for an increase in my salary, but my requests were refused. Meanwhile, I often work non-stop 24-hour shifts and sometimes even 48-hour ones.”
Uyghur officers in Aksu (Akesu) prefecture and Turpan (Tulufan) city said they earned 1,800 yuan (U.S. $261) and 2,200 yuan (U.S. $320) per month, respectively, and told similar stories of working long hours in potentially dangerous situations.
Jur’et Obul, who holds a medical services doctorate and is a board member of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association exile group, told RFA that the disparity in wages between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang is indicative of a larger issue of inequality between the two ethnic groups in the region.
“Local Uyghurs—whether they work as government employees, police or any other official position—have already become second class citizens in their own land,” he said.
He questioned why Han Chinese police from outside Xinjiang could command more than triple the salary of Uyghurs doing the same job, and called the practice just one more example of how opportunities are limited for members of his ethnic group living under Chinese rule.
“These days, nobody—not even children—believe in so-called ‘ethnic equality.’”
Reported by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Eset Sulaiman. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.