TIME China

China Orders Everyone in One Province to Hand Their Passports Over to Police

China's Uyghur Minority Marks Muslim Holiday In Country's Far West
Kevin Frayer—Getty Images A Uighur family rides past a camel in Turpan county, in China's autonomous region of Xinjiang, on Sept. 12, 2016

The region is home to about 10 million Uighur Muslims who say they face widespread discrimination

The Chinese government is requiring all residents of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the country’s northwest to hand their passports over to police, the latest restriction on movement in the restive region.

The Global Times, a state-controlled newspaper, reported Thursday that the “passport-management policy” is being implemented across the entire autonomous region, and requires all citizens to turn in the documents and apply for permission if they wish to leave the country.

According to Human Rights Watch, the passport recall policy has been in place since at least late October, and strikes alarming similarities to a so-called “two-tier travel” system implemented in Tibet. Both policies have been viewed as arbitrary measures meant to restrict the freedom of minorities in outlying regions where much of the population rejects belonging to China.

Officials cited by the Global Times, on condition of anonymity, insisted the move is meant to maintain public order amid what the government said was a rising threat of terrorism in the resource-rich region that borders Central Asia. Xinjiang is home to some 10 million Uighur Muslims, many of whom have agitated against what they say is decades of discrimination such as controls on their religion and culture.

A number of deadly attacks in western China have been attributed to Uighur separatists, such as a 2014 knife attack at a train station in the city of Kunming that killed dozens of civilians and injured about 130 others. The Chinese government has responded to the violence with ongoing counterterrorism and security operations.

The Global Times reports that the new passport policy “will not affect ordinary people’s travel plans,” and would only serve to keep criminals or people with “suspicious records” from going abroad. Rights advocates, however, say the policy is discriminatory, leaving innocent citizens vulnerable to exploitation and risks exacerbating tensions.

“Chinese authorities have given no credible reason for taking away people’s passports, violating their right to freedom of movement,” HRW’s China director Sophie Richardson said in a recent statement. “Doing so across an entire region is a form of collective punishment and fuels resentment toward the government in a region where tensions are high.”

[Global Times]

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team