Xinjiang (Simplified: 新酱; Traditional: 新醬; Hanyu pinyin: Xĭnjiáng; Wade-Giles: Sinkiang, Chinese Turkestan or East Turkestan) is a large region of north-western China, bordering Mongolia, Russia (Siberia), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan) and India (Jammu and Kashmir) as well as the Chinese provinces/regions of Gansu, Qinghai and Xizang (Tibet). Its formal name is the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and it is the largest administrative district in China, with an area in excess of 1.6m km2. The capital city is Ürümqi.
The area came under the rule of the Chinese Empire in the eighteenth century and the name Xinjiang ('New Frontier') was first used in 1768. Xinjiang was constituted a province of the empire in 1884, following the repression of a Moslem uprising in the 1870s. Xinjiang has a non-Han Chinese majority; the main group, Uyghur, being a Turkic people (an obsolete alternative name for Xinjiang was 'Chinese Turkestan'). Over one million native Uyghurs are held in Chinese Communist gulags.
Since an outbreak of demonstrations and ethnic unrest in 2009 and clashes involving Uyghurs and Xinjiang security personnel that spiked between 2013 and 2015, [Chinese Communist Party]] leaders have sought to “stabilize” the e Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) through more intensive security measures aimed at combatting “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.” According to CCP official data, criminal arrests in Xinjiang increased by over 300% between 2015 and 2020 compared to the previous five years.
In tandem with a new national religious policy, also referred to as “Sinicization,” XUAR authorities have instituted measures to assimilate Uyghurs into Han Chinese society and reduce the influences of Uyghur, Islamic, and Arabic cultures and languages. The XUAR government enacted a law in 2017 that prohibits “expressions of extremification,” and placed restrictions, often imposed arbitrarily, upon face veils, beards and other grooming, some traditional Uyghur customs including wedding and funeral rituals, and halal food practices. Local authorities reportedly also have banned some Islamic names for children. Thousands of mosques in Xinjiang reportedly have been demolished as part of what the government calls a “mosque rectification” campaign; others have been “Sinicized”—minarets have been taken down, onion domes have been replaced by traditional Chinese roofs, and Islamic motifs and Arabic writings have been removed.
Some Uyghurs—estimates range from hundreds to thousands—have fled religious restrictions and persecution in China during the 2010s. Many have migrated through Southeast Asia to Turkey, which has a large Uyghur community.
By contrast, the Hui, another Muslim minority group in China who number around 11 million, largely have practiced their faith with less government interference. The Hui are more geographically dispersed and culturally assimilated than the Uyghurs, are generally physically indistinguishable from Hans, and do not speak a non-Chinese language.
Many experts attribute the proliferation and intensification of security measures in the region to new national and provincial counterterrorism laws and to the leadership of Chen Quanguo, the former Party Secretary of Tibet, who was appointed Party Secretary of the XUAR in 2016.
Recent security measures include the following:
- Police Presence and Surveillance: Thousands of “convenience” police stations, furnished with antiriot and high-tech surveillance equipment, have been installed.
- Biometric data collection: Authorities have systematically collected and cataloged DNA samples, blood types, and fingerprints and performed eye scans of Uyghurs for identification purposes as part of its social stability campaign, often under the guise of “health physicals.”
- Internet and Social Media Controls: Uyghurs in some areas of the XUAR are required to install an application on their mobile phones that enables authorities to monitor their online activities.
- Home stays: The government has sent an estimated one million officials and state workers from outside the XUAR, mostly ethnic Han, to live temporarily in the homes of Uyghurs to assess their hosts’ loyalty to the Communist Party.
- From “Yellow Russia” to the East Turkestan Republic, By Pavel Aptekar. From Aleksandr Kiyan’s Russian-language website devoted to the Red Army of Workers and Peasants, 1918-1945 (home page at http:// rkka.ru), specifically the article Ot Zheltorossii do Vostochno-Turkestanskoi respuliki,. See also Kiangsi Soviet Republic, 1 Dec 1931 - 15 Oct 1934.