China's Uyghurs Face Added Scrutiny Ahead of G20 Summit in Hangzhou

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Young Uyghurs rest near the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital of western China's Xinjiang region, Sept. 17, 2014.
Young Uyghurs rest near the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital of western China's Xinjiang region, Sept. 17, 2014.

As authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou prepare to host a major international summit in early September, notices have begun to appear in local social media urging residents to be on the lookout for ethnic Uyghurs entering the city, sources say.

“Anyone who sees a Uyghur man or woman coming from Xinjiang must report this directly to the police,” reads one notice posted by Hangzhou’s Hongshi property management group, a copy of which was recently obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service.

A 500 yuan (U.S. $75.50) reward will be paid following confirmation of the suspect person’s identity as a Uyghur, the notice goes on to say.

Reached by RFA for comment, an employee at the Hongshi property management office denied that her firm had posted the notice, adding, “I don’t know what kind of announcement you are talking about, but I can tell you our office never published it.”

“I can’t answer your questions on this case,” she said.

A police officer answering the phone at Hangzhou’s Mishihang police station also denied all knowledge of the notice, saying, “This announcement is a fake.”

“Our station’s name and number appear on that notice, but we didn’t publish it,” he added.

Special scrutiny

Hoping to create a secure environment for the G20 summit in early September, Hangzhou city authorities are shutting down businesses and industries across the city, issuing baffling English phrasebooks, and sending its citizens off on vacation, sources say.

China’s mostly Muslim Uyghurs have meanwhile come under special scrutiny in the country’s central and eastern provinces following an upsurge in violence in the northwestern China’s Xinjiang region that has left hundreds dead since 2012, and harassment of the ethnic group has become routine.

Speaking recently to RFA, a Uyghur airline pilot said that he was briefly held and questioned without cause on Jan. 21 while staying at a hotel in Hangzhou.

“The police entered my room at midnight and asked me to show my ID,” the pilot, named Akbar Memet, said.

“I showed them my identification and told them where I worked, but they insisted on checking my luggage and personal belongings,” he said.

Forced to go with them to their station, Memet was interrogated “for several hours” and had his photograph and fingerprints taken before being allowed to leave, he said.

“I felt deeply stressed and insulted,” Memet said, adding, “They did this only because I am a Uyghur.”

Forced to leave

A Uyghur businessman named Ershiddin was similarly harassed last year while checking his emails in an internet café in Shanxi province’s Taiyuan city, Ershiddin told RFA.

“I hadn’t been there more than an hour when three Chinese policemen came in and asked me to show my ID,” he said. “They were very rude and impolite.”

“One of the officers then took the owner outside, and when he came back he told me as politely as he could that I would have to leave his café.”

“People from Xinjiang are forbidden from accessing the internet in public places,” Ershiddin said he was told.

“It was an order from the police.”

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 domestic policies are responsible for instability in the region.

Reported and translated by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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