Own a Compass or Boxing Gloves? You May Be a Terrorist

02/09/2019 CHANG XIN

Everyday items from agricultural production to vocational tools to tea sets could get you arrested in Xinjiang. The official list of prohibited items disclosed.

Since 2017, operations have been launched across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to discover and confiscate so-called “Three Illegals and One Item” objects. The “three illegals” refer to religious publications, audiovisual media, and activities. The “one item” refers to things that could be used for making explosives.

Citizens across Xinjiang are being caught up in the search for banned items, including students. In March of 2018, 113 teachers and administrative staff at the College of Xinjiang Uyghur Medicine, which teaches traditional local medical theory, divided into 20 groups and carried out a comprehensive inspection of three student dormitories. The inquiry sought to discover the “Three Illegals and One Item” objects, as well as controlled knives (China restricts knives larger than a given size and of non-kitchen design) and publications deemed illegal by the authorities. They searched students’ lockers, beds, drawers, suitcases, closets, and balconies, and reviewed videos, audio files, and images on students’ phones.

School administration emphasized that, in the future, they would be increasing the frequency and thoroughness of their inspections of dormitories, and that students were forbidden from engaging in any religious activities on campus.

Xinjiang Changji Vocational and Technical College announced that those on campus involved with “Three Illegals and One Item” would be expelled and handed over to public security organs.

What precisely is included in the list of objects that the government is so eager to remove from circulation?

Documents adopted by various local authorities disclose that the list of forbidden items includes religious items, such as objects with a crescent-and-star symbol, tapestries, and trays with the words “East Turkestan,” Quran reading devices, leftover fireworks or firecrackers, potassium permanganate (used to treat skin conditions), cutting machines, and even maps and compasses. The authorities claim that anyone who keeps such items and does not hand them over will be severely punished according to the Anti-Terrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China and other laws.

To encourage residents to hand in the items, authorities have been organizing campaigns for the public in counties across Xinjiang. Events under such campaign were held in Manas county for one month. Authorities organized lectures for the general public about the returnable items under five categories:

  1. Ornaments, timepieces, and plaques with religious fanaticism ideology on them
  2. Illegal religious publications
  3. Everyday ‘halal’ generalization items
  4. Violence- and terrorism-related controlled devices
  5. Prayer rugs for engaging in unlawful underground religious activities.

News reports about the campaign in Manas county stated that participants at the events voluntarily surrendered 17,738 articles categorized as “Three Illegals and One Item,” including 16,862 in the “three illegals” category, 351 “materials liable to produce explosives,” and 525 controlled knives.

We present below the translation of one of the texts of notices on the requirement to return “Three Illegals and One Item” adopted by local authorities in Xinjiang:

Notice Regarding Handing Over “Three Illegals and One Item”

In order to maintain social stability as well as long-term peace and stability, and to guarantee the normal production and living conditions of people of all ethnic groups, the Party and government have conducted a series of mass propaganda activities. The participation of the masses has been sufficiently improved. Some members of the public have already proactively handed over the “Three Illegals and One Item” (illegal religious publications, online communications, and religious activities, as well as explosive-making items). To ensure that the “Three Illegals and One Item” are not retained in society, which would corrode people’s thoughts and endanger the security of society, this notice is hereby given as follows:

I. For anyone for whom the following circumstances exist in production or life and who proactively hands it over, after being assessed by the government’s commodity price department, a method of “replacing subsidies with rewards” will be adopted; financial compensation that is higher than the purchase price or the current market price will be given.

(1) Sulfur, ammonium nitrate, urea, and other materials liable to produce explosives from baking dried apricots or remaining from agricultural production;

(2) Fireworks and firecrackers remaining from celebrations of holidays, and remaining matches or other dangerous and explosive materials;

(3) Aside from kitchen knives, choppers, and other daily necessities, knives with a knife tip angle less than 30 degrees or knives that are longer than 7 centimeters; or large homemade knives or machetes, and other regulated implements;

(4) Tapestries, calendars, alarm clocks, tea sets, trays, and other items with religious extremist connotations, that contain the crescent-and-star symbol, “haram” / “halal” symbols, or the words “East Turkestan” or its patterns;

(5) Privately purchased Quran reading machines and other illegal religious books and illegal religious audiovisual products;

(6) Aside from traditional ethnic costumes, keeping clothing with extreme religious connotations, such as burqas;

(7) Potassium permanganate purchased privately from hospitals, medical clinics, or pharmacies;

(8) Liquefied gas cylinders and steel automobile cylinders that have not been registered with the management department, or that are excess or have been scrapped;

(9) Idle/abandoned cutting machines, welding machines, and other tools for those no longer engaged in the iron processing industry.

II. For any regulated equipment or material liable to produce explosives that was purchased or collected for personal interest and hobby, if proactively handed over, a method of “replacing subsidies with rewards” will be adopted, and appropriate financial compensation will be given.

(1) Air guns, crossbows, slingshots, and other items used for hunting;

(2) Privately collected explosives, grenades, and detonators and other items left over from mining and oil exploration;

(3) Binoculars, compasses, maps, and other items used for outdoor sports;

(4) Knives, arrows, darts, sandbags, boxing gloves and other equipment used for physical training.

III. For anything not listed in this notice that people think should be handed over, a method of “replacing subsidies with rewards” can also be adopted to give financial compensation.

This notice is effective from the date of issuance. After April 1, 2017, anyone who privately stores and does not hand over the abovementioned items will be severely punished in accordance with the Anti-Terrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China; Criminal LawLaw on Penalties for Administration of Public SecurityRegulation on the Safety Administration of Fireworks and FirecrackersRegulation on the Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals, and other related laws and regulations.

Reported by Chang Xin