Rewards provided by authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region to tipsters for outing would-be “terrorists” are also being offered to those reporting ethnic Uyghur officials and public figures suspected of “disloyalty” to Beijing, according to sources.
Earlier this month, officials told RFA’s Uyghur Service that authorities had earmarked 100 million yuan (U.S. $15.2 million) to reward residents of Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture who report “acts of terrorism” in the predominantly ethnic Uyghur-inhabited area.
The Counter-Terrorism Reward Resolution, enacted by the Hotan prefectural government, set aside the money for information on suspicious activities, and for individuals who “attack or kill terrorists,” the sources from Qaraqash (Moyu) county said, confirming an earlier report by state media.
But while prior reports referred to high pay-outs for information on a range of behaviors from a “planned violent terrorist attack on high density public areas” to “women in full dress” or “bearded men,” a source in nearby Guma (Pichan) county recently told RFA that the campaign is also targeting so-called “two-faced” Uyghurs in the region.
A security guard at the Guma county police station said that the county Public Security Bureau, Ministry of Justice, and the local procuratorate had each made announcements regarding the reward campaign in late August and early September.
The guard said that the announcements offered 900,000-1 million yuan (U.S. $137,530-$152,815) for anyone reporting “religious extremists” who “interfere with the judiciary, local administration, or education,” or who attempt to “obstruct implementation of the constitution.”
But he also referred to two articles in the notice that specifically mention rewards for informants who report officials and public figures who “assist criminals” or commit “criminal offenses,” suggesting that the campaign also seeks to root out those in positions of authority who try to undermine Chinese rule in the region.
“Anyone who provides clues about government officials who deliberately assist criminals in evading punishment, hand them light sentences, or release them before the completion of their sentence, will be awarded 300,000-900,000 yuan (U.S. $45,840-137,530),” he said, referring to Article 8 of the announcement.
“Anyone who provides information with evidence on the criminal offenses of ‘two-faced’ party members or cadres, or of ‘two-faced’ religious figures who harbor extremist views, will receive 200,000-500,000 yuan (U.S. $30,560-76,400),” he added.
“Two-faced” is a term applied by the government to Uyghurs who do not willingly follow directives and exhibit signs of “disloyalty” that can include promotion of “extremist” sentiment, providing support to separatist groups, or publishing information that “harms the unity of the country” or “distorts the history of Xinjiang.”
The guard said that security personnel and other residents of Guma consider the campaign “a means of making money,” and regularly look for ways to collect the cash, which would provide a substantial supplement to their regular salaries.
Zumret Tursun, a Uyghur political analyst living in Norway, told RFA that while similar policies have promised to reward would-be spies on “terrorist activities” in past years in Xinjiang, the new directive is the first to include compensation for reporting “two-faced” officials and public figures throughout the region.
Tursun, a former university professor from Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, likened the reward program to the 1956 “Hundred Flowers Campaign” under Mao Zedong, when Chinese citizens were encouraged to express criticism of the Communist Party, only to be publicly denounced and sentenced to prison labor camps in the name of rooting out “rightist” dissidents.
“Recently … someone working in the police force who had assisted my relatives [in Urumqi] in the past called them and asked them not to mention anything to anyone about what he did for them,” she said.
“He said, ‘At the moment, a new version of a Mao-era campaign is taking place that aims to dig out two-faced cadres. Let me keep my job and look after my family—please do not mention to anyone what I did for you.’”
Tursun said that during the campaign, which will last 150 days, authorities will be looking for any information related to “two-faced activities” during the last five years.
As part of the campaign, authorities have relocated “collaborators” from largely Uyghur-inhabited southern Xinjiang to the capital to “follow and watch over the cadres” there.
“The government promised them Urumqi hukous [residency cards] and high salaries in a bid to encourage them to dig out anything that happened in the past,” she said.
“The government also said that they must find all the people responsible, including anyone involved in the beginning, middle, or end of the [past incidents].”
The Chinese authorities are using the campaign to sow mistrust within the Uyghur community, Tursun said, noting that such large rewards are hard to ignore.
“People can’t hope to make that amount of money during their entire lifetime, no matter how high their salaries are—it’s like winning the lottery,” she said.
But the huge sums show that the Chinese authorities are “acting like mad dogs” because they have repeatedly failed to implement control of the Uyghur region.
“Uyghurs living [in Xinjiang] are still resisting [Chinese rule]—even the peasants are using their shovels to fight back,” she said.
“Now they are trying to find traitors, using our own people to finish us … But the people should now know that the Chinese won’t trust anyone as long as they are Uyghur.”
Since Xinjiang Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo was appointed to his post in August last year, a series of harsh policies has been initiated targeting Uyghurs in the region, where members of the mostly Muslim ethnic group complain of religious and cultural repression and harassment under Chinese rule.
Thousands of Uyghurs accused of harboring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views have been detained in political re-education camps and prisons throughout Xinjiang since April as part of an ongoing crackdown.
China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.
While China blames some Uyghurs for “terrorist” attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat and that repressive policies in Xinjiang are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.