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Xinjiang: Uighurs Grapple with Travel Restrictions

A cityscape of the business district in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, with street and store names written in Chinese and doubled in Uighur. Due to the influx of Han Chinese, who are viewed by Uighurs as “illegal economic migrants,” Uighurs are now a minority in Xinjiang. Discrimination, including restrictions on language, religious practices and travel, along with economic marginalization, is making it hard for many Uighurs to feel at home in China these days. (Photo: Asian Development Bank)

Ethnic Turkic-speaking Uighurs in China have long faced restrictions relating mainly to the practice of their religion, Islam. Now, under new regulations implemented last fall, their ability to travel apparently is being restricted, with residents of western Xinjiang province required to hand over their passports to police for "safekeeping."
 
When Xinjiang residents want to travel, they now must now obtain permission before retrieving their passports, according to news reports aired by the British Broadcasting Corp. Uighurs reportedly have sometimes been denied passports for travel by officials.
 
Uighurs, who now comprise about 45 percent of Xinjiang's population, can also be subjected to other onerous procedures. In June, for example, police in Xinjiang ordered residents of Yili to provide DNA samples when applying for travel documents. Residents were also requested to provide a blood sample, fingerprints, a voice recording and a three-dimensional image.
 

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Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He has contributed commentaries to US News and World Report, Newsweek, Washington Times, The Diplomat, The National Interest, International Policy Digest, Asia Times, Eurasia Review, Indo-Pacific Review, the South China Morning Post, Global Times and China Digital Times. He is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Xinjiang: Uighurs Grapple with Travel Restrictions

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