Aug 06, 2014

East Turkestan: New Bus Ban Discriminates Against Uyghurs

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is alarmed at a report that Uyghurs will be advised against boarding public buses in the city of Karamay as part of a campaign to discourage five types of appearance. The highlighted appearances target Muslim, and in particular, Uyghur residents in the city and were publicized in a report and image in Chinese state media. “Officials in Karamay city are endorsing an openly racist and discriminatory policy aimed at ordinary Uyghur people,” said UAA president, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC. This ban follows one introduced in July of this year in East Turkestan’s capital Urumqi, whereby restrictions similar to those imposed by airlines were applied to buses.  

Below is an article published by Uiyghur Human Rights Project:

“The concern is officials feel they can flaunt the laws of China in order to implement Xi Jinping’s one year anti-terror campaign that appears more and more to be a wholesale onslaught against the Uyghur peoples’ religious beliefs and practices. What this bus ban tells us is that Uiyghurs in China have fewer rights than other citizens, even in their homeland, and that it green lights discrimination against Uiyghurs by ordinary Han Chinese.”

On August 4, 2014, the Karamay Daily, a government controlled media outlet, reported that residents in Karamay city displaying at least one of five types of appearance will be advised against boarding buses and will be reported to police if they refuse. The appearances included:

Jilbab Head-covering scarf Veil Young people with large beards Clothing displaying the crescent moon and star

Fifty-nine major public bus stations in the city will be manned by security personnel to conduct checks and every passenger will have his or her bags searched.

UAA believes that the ban placed on certain kinds of appearance in Karamay not only targets all Muslims, but also specifically focuses on the Uiyghur population, as demonstrated in forbidding clothing with the crescent moon and star—a symbol used on the flag of East Turkestan. UAA also believes that Chinese authorities in Karamay are able to confidently implement such stringent prohibitions in a city that has a 75% population of Han Chinese.

The curbs in Karamay were put in place days after overseas media reported on a ban of products such as yoghurt, mineral water, soft drinks and cooking oil on public transport in the regional capital of Urumchi.

The restrictions in Karamay are not the first time Chinese authorities have attempted to control the personal clothing choices of Uiyghurs in East Turkestan. On May 8, 2014, the Uiyghur Human Rights Project reported on a notice posted on the Shayar County, Aksu Prefecture government website detailing how informants could receive a reward for reporting on local residents exhibiting one or more of 53 proscribed behaviors. One of the behaviors for which rewards were available was information on “people with bizarre dress or growing a long beard.”

Furthermore, on May 15, 2014, UAA called a regional directive regarding the standardization of traditional Uiyghur clothing “an excessive intrusion into the private lives and decisions of the Uiyghur people.”

A May 13, 2014 report in the Chinese state media outlet, Tianshan explained how “the office of a small leadership group for standardization work at the Xinjiang iUyghur Autonomous Region Bureau of Quality and Technology Supervision” planned to liaise with other government departments to standardize the characteristics of traditional ethnic minority dress in the region.

According to the report, the initiative was spurred by concern for the slow “disappearance” of traditional Uiyghur clothing due to the influence of the “three evil forces of extremism, separatism and terrorism.” The article continues by asserting: “a minority of the Xinjiang public is blindly adopting foreign clothes with an extremist religious character.”

UAA believes the latest directives from Karamay city are a contravention of the Chinese Constitution, which states in article 4:

All nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities and upholds and develops the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's nationalities. Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are prohibited.