Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.
For immediate release
June 25, 2009, 6:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is concerned that the Chinese government is promoting ethnic and gender discrimination in hiring practices in East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, or XUAR, in northwest China) at the same time it promotes an official policy of “sustainable economic development and harmonious ethnic relations.” China’s Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law encourages the hiring of Uyghurs, and according to Chinese law regarding the XUAR’s autonomous status, the region is entitled to independence of finance, independence of economic planning, use of local language and other rights. Despite guarantees in Chinese law forbidding discrimination based on ethnicity, and Chinese legal provisions stipulating measures to promote the hiring of ethnic minorities, systematic discrimination against Uyghurs and women remains widespread in the recruitment process for state jobs in East Turkestan. Hiring notices posted on the Internet for civil service and university jobs in East Turkestan reveal blatant discrimination against Uyghurs and other non-Han ethnic groups, as well as against women of any ethnicity.
“Officials in East Turkestan attempt to present a rosy picture of a government bringing prosperity to Uyghurs and other “minorities” in East Turkestan, and tout the omnipotent concern of the government for their well-being,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “However, actions speak louder than words. In this case, explicit and well-documented policies fly in the face of official pronouncements that the government is implementing policies beneficial to Uyghurs, and directly contravene China’s own laws and constitution. In addition, while official media present Uyghur culture as backward and biased against women, Chinese government policy actively discriminates against women, and in particular Uyghur women.”
A report issued on July 17 by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) examines this trend, contrasting Chinese law ensuring equal hiring practices with notices posted on the Internet by government institutions in East Turkestan. In noting an overwhelming preference for the recruitment of Han Chinese for jobs in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) (the organization has reserved 744 out of 894 available positions for Han Chinese), CECC references a 2003 government White Paper describing the ranks of the XPCC as “a mosaic of people from 37 ethnic groups, including the Han, Uygur, Kazak, Hui, and Mongolian.” CECC’s report goes on to explain that while the organization has a special status, it handles its affairs “in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.” Chinese law, the report further states, forbids discrimination based on ethnicity. (For more information on specific Chinese legal provisions prohibiting ethnic discrimination in the areas of employment and labor, please see CECC’s earlier report, here: http://www.cecc.gov/pages/virtualAcad/index.phpd?showsingle=117001)
Online notices for state jobs accessed by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) put forth explicit requirements in terms of ethnicity, as well as gender, and display a clear bias in favor of Han Chinese applicants. For instance, in a notice posted online on May 18, 2009 to announce recruitment for the Xinjiang Hotan Teacher Training Institute (http://www.htszedu.com/News/2009521113024.html), four positions were noted, and all four were reserved for Han Chinese applicants. In a notice posted online on June 6, 2009 for positions available at the Kashgar Normal Institute (http://www.fjzsksw.com/fjgwy/XJSY/261994.shtml), 12 out of 34 positions were reserved for Han Chinese applicants, and all but five available to non-Han applicants require that they are “minkaohan” (ethnic minority students who have had a Chinese-language education).
As evidenced by hiring notices publicized by state employers, Uyghurs who have undergone a Uyghur-language education face blatant and near-universal denial of employment opportunities in the state sector in East Turkestan. It is also worthy of noting that, according to the website of the Xinjiang Hotan Teacher Training Institute and information widely available on the Internet regarding the Kashgar Normal Institute, the student bodies of both institutions are primarily composed of Uyghur students.
Eight of the positions available at the Kashgar Normal Institute are reserved specifically for men (in areas such as law and politics and information technology), and two others (in physics) require that the candidate be either male with at least an undergraduate degree while a female applicant for the same position must possess at least a graduate degree. Two positions (the only two) reserved specifically for females are for instruction in the area of preschool education.
A notice posted online in May 2009 for civil service jobs throughout East Turkestan (http://www.bingojob.cn/zixun/ArticleView.aspx?rid=a4b47da1-2e09-42a1-a7b1-488224fcbe83) noted that individuals taking examinations in the Uyghur language for available positions must pass a Mandarin language proficiency test as well. However, the only positions specifically listed as available in the notice all require that candidates be Han Chinese men under the age of 28. Online notices posted in 2007 exhibit similar restrictions on ethnicity and gender. For instance, out of ten positions available for medicine inspection technicians in Kashgar Prefecture in September 2007 (http://www.121job.cn/article/show.asp?id=136661), seven were reserved for Han Chinese and three for Uyghurs, and testing for these positions was performed in Chinese only. A notice posted in the same month for civil service jobs in Hotan Prefecture (http://www.hts.gov.cn/Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=6556) stipulated that Han Chinese applicants could hold a residence permit from any location in East Turkestan, while members of other ethnic groups must be residents of Hotan. Both of these notices stressed a need for applicants to be opposed to “splittism” and illegal religious activities. In addition, a notice posted online in November 2007 for quality and safety oversight positions throughout East Turkestan (http://www.121job.cn/article/show.asp?id=25934) listed 44 available positions, 22 of which were limited to Han Chinese applicants. All but four of these positions were reserved for men. As noted by CECC, recent discriminatory hiring practices have been put in place at a time of high unemployment for college graduates in East Turkestan. Moreover, while a lack of transparency in official reporting prevents a concise assessment of the unemployment situation for Uyghurs and other non-Han groups in East Turkestan, available evidence suggests that Uyghurs and other “minority” groups suffer greatly disproportionate levels of unemployment.
The online notices documented above by UAA also reveal that Chinese authorities are actively seeking to recruit applicants from areas other areas of the PRC to work in the state sector in East Turkestan (see, for instance, http://www.bingojob.cn/zixun/ArticleView.aspx?rid=a4b47da1-2e09-42a1-a7b1-488224fcbe83 and http://www.hts.gov.cn/Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=6556). Prominent Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti recently called upon authorities in East Turkestan to promote equal development between Han migrants and native Uyghurs in East Turkestan. Earlier this year, Tohti cited joblessness as the single greatest problem facing Uyghurs. In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Tohti stated that Uyghurs are living in poverty, and that “laws that should have been applied in the Uyghur Autonomous Region haven’t been implemented.”
In addition, UAA is concerned that ethnic requirements for government jobs advertised in recent months in majority Uyghur areas of southern East Turkestan, such as Kashgar and Hotan, represent an aggressive push to further assimilate the region into Chinese culture and society. Such a move would be consistent with a recent, broader campaign in Kashgar and Hotan to demolish traditional Uyghur neighborhoods and remove the Uyghur language from schools in the name of promoting modernization and “ethnic unity”. Meanwhile, reports indicate that since 2006, thousands of young Uyghur women have been transferred from southern areas of East Turkestan to eastern China in the name of providing them with job training and economic opportunity. However, these young women have reported facing extremely poor working conditions and threats to themselves and their families to force their participation in the program.
The ongoing removal of Uyghur from all levels of instruction in East Turkestan is ironically being carried out under the banner of providing an education that will prepare them for life in a Mandarin-dominated job market. A Uyghur Human Rights Project report noted the experience of one Uyghur teacher who took his Mandarin-speaking Uyghur students to a job fair: “At job fairs in schools I would go with my students to look for jobs but the signs will say ‘we don’t want minority people’. I felt ashamed, humiliated. My students, they study hard, but they still have no opportunities, no jobs. So I felt like I was teaching a lie.”
UHRP’s report also presents a case that there is “a very strong correlation between areas of Han majority and high per capita income” in East Turkestan. A Chinese scholar’s research into economic development in western China includes government census data from 2003 displaying disproportionate rates of employment among the Uyghur and Han populations, with higher rates of Han Chinese holding white collar and government jobs, and higher rates of Uyghurs holding blue-collar jobs. Furthermore, official statistics on GDP in East Turkestan’s cities from 2003 reveal that the per capita GDP in Urumchi, where Han Chinese comprised more than 73 percent of the population, was almost nine times higher than the per capita GDP in Hotan, where nearly 97 percent of the population was Uyghur.
 The XPCC is a paramilitary organization that serves as a major source of economic discrimination against Uyghurs. The XPCC is administered by Beijing and controls much of the economy and arable land of East Turkestan. Although Han Chinese make up around 40 per cent of the population of East Turkestan, they make up more than 88 percent of the XPCC. Uyghurs, the largest ethnic group in the Autonomous Region, make up under 7 percent of the organization.
 Uyghur Human Rights Project interview with Uyghur Teacher, May 23, 2007 via Uyghur Language Under Attack: The Myth of “Bilingual” Education in the People’s Republic of China Uyghur Human Rights Project, July 24, 2007, available at: http://docs.uyghuramerican.org/UyghurLanguageUnderAttack.pdf.
 Ma Rong, Economic Development, Labor Transference, Minority Education in the West of China, Development and Society, Volume 32 Number 2, December 2003, p. 128; available at: http://sociology.snu.ac.kr/isdpr/publication/journal/32-2/1%20Rong%20Ma(사).pdf.
 Debasish Chaudhuri, A Survey of the Economic Situation in Xinjiang and its Role in the Twenty-first Century, China Study Centre, New Delhi, Volume 41, Issue 1, 2005, p. 6.