Bus ban in Karamay treats Uyghurs as second class citizens and demonstrates open discrimination

For immediate Release
August  05, 2014, 05:50 PM EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

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.

“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 Uyghurs in China have fewer rights than other citizens, even in their homeland, and that it green lights discrimination against Uyghurs 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 Uyghur 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 Uyghurs in East Turkestan. On May 8, 2014, the Uyghur 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 Uyghur clothing “an excessive intrusion into the private lives and decisions of the Uyghur 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 Uyghur 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 Uyghur 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

Article 36 adds:

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. 

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