China: Visiting Officials Occupy Homes in Muslim Region

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Beijing: Chinese officials, since early 2018, have imposed regular “home stays” on families in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch said today. These visits are part of the government’s increasingly invasive “Strike Hard” campaign in the region, home to 11 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities.

During these visits, families are required to provide officials with information about their lives and political views, and are subjected to political indoctrination.

The Chinese government should immediately end this visitation program, which violates rights to privacy and family life and the cultural rights of ethnic minorities protected under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said.

“Muslim families across Xinjiang are now literally eating and sleeping under the watchful eye of the state in their own homes,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The latest drive adds to a whole host of pervasive – and perverse – controls on everyday life in Xinjiang.”

Since 2014, Xinjiang authorities have sent 200,000 cadres from government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions to regularly visit and surveil people. Authorities state that this initiative, known as “fanghuiju” (an acronym that stands for “Visit the People, Benefit the People, and Get Together the Hearts of the People”), is broadly designed to “safeguard social stability.”

In October 2016, authorities initiated a related effort, called the “Becoming Family” campaign. About 110,000 officials visit the largely Turkic Muslim population in southern Xinjiang every two months with a view toward “fostering ethnic harmony.” This “Becoming Family” campaign has been greatly expanded in recent months. In December 2017, Xinjiang authorities mobilized more than a million cadres to spend a week living in homes primarily in the countryside. They typically stay with Muslim families, though sometimes cadres are dispatched to stay with Han families.

The cadres perform several functions during their stay. They collect and update information about the families, such as whether they have local hukous – household registration – or are migrants from another region, their political views, and their religion. The visiting cadres observe and report on any “problems” or “unusual situations” – which can range from uncleanliness to alcoholism to the extent of religious beliefs – and act to “rectify” the situation. Cadres also carry out political indoctrination, including promoting “Xi Jinping Thought” and explaining the Chinese Communist Party’s “care” and “selflessness” in its policies toward Xinjiang.

They also warn people against the dangers of “pan-Islamism,” “pan-Turkism,” and “pan-Kazakhism” – ideologies or identities that the government finds threatening. The authorities expect all of these to be done through “heart-to-heart” talks about everyday life.

China’s deeply invasive forced assimilation practices against Muslims not only violate basic rights, but are also likely to foster and deepen resentment in the region,” Wang said. “Xinjiang authorities should immediately end the ‘Strike Hard’ campaign and all the related abuses.”

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