By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW
Reporting a beard like the one on the man at left might not win a reward from officials in Shayar, who specified “long beards.” The man was in a group of about 200 people believed to be Uighurs who were smuggled into Thailand.Athit Perawongmetha/ReutersReporting a beard like the one on the man at left might not win a reward from officials in Shayar, who specified “long beards.” The man was in a group of about 200 people believed to be Uighurs who were smuggled into Thailand.
“Intelligence information” is the “essential factor” in safeguarding citizens’ lives and property, the Shayar County government in the far-western region of Xinjiang has said, announcing rewards ranging from 50 to 50,000 renminbi ($8 to $8,000) to anyone who reports people planning violent attacks or hoarding guns and bullets, men growing long beards, women wearing veils or youths under 18 visiting a mosque. Such activities are considered signs of Muslim extremism by officials who are grappling with rising violence in the region that is home to ethnic Uighurs, a mostly Sunni Muslim, Turkic-speaking people.
Some of the activities that residents in Shayar, a county of about 200,000 people in Aksu Prefecture, are encouraged to report appeared to raise questions as to whether locals were turning their backs on the Communist Party-run state and its systems: “refusing to use the renminbi,” “refusing to use or destroying documents issued by the state” and “refusing to enter into legal marriage” as well as arson, homicide, kidnapping and “splittism” — calling for the independence for Xinjiang, which some Uighurs call East Turkestan.
The “Shayar County Intelligence Prize Announcement” has since been deleted from the county’s website. But reached by telephone, a man in the Shayar government political and law office confirmed that officials were collecting “intelligence” and asked if the caller had any. He confirmed that beards were a target, but declined to comment on refusing to use renminbi. He did not give his name, and transferred the call to a second man who declined to answer any questions or give his name.
“Social stability information work is the key factor in stability work, and promptly reporting stability intelligence information can actively prevent and smash many kinds of illegal crimes, protecting the safety of the country and the masses’ lives and goods,” the notice said.
Reporting on a party member entering a mosque or someone “growing a long beard” could bring a reward, as would reporting on someone traveling to “outside areas” to read “the scriptures,” it continued.
Other causes for suspicion were currency inscribed with rebellious slogans; the presence of a “foreigner”; the disappearance of a neighbor or a child dropping out of school; growing or using marijuana, Ecstasy or heroin, and hoarding gasoline or chemicals that could used to make incendiary devices. In all, 53 categories were listed.
The announcement came the same week that Radio Free Asia reported that dozens of men and women were detained in the village of Gulboyi near Turpan in eastern Xinjiang for wearing veils or other traditional Islamic clothing or having beards. According to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, an imam and two other Uighurs in a nearby mosque in Toksun County were being investigated for listening to banned religious CDs, Radio Free Asia reported.
Earlier this year, according to foreign diplomats, officials in Turpan conducted a major public education campaign asserting that wearing a veil or growing a long beard were signs of extremism.
Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping, on his first visit to Xinjiang since becoming Communist Party chief, called on military leaders in the region on Tuesday to ensure that “red genes merge with army leaders’ and officials’ veins and arteries, and red genes last for generations to come,” the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Tensions are rising in the region ahead of the 25th anniversary of rioting by thousands of Uighurs in Urumqi on May 19, 1989, and the fifth anniversary of clashes between Uighurs and ethnic Han in July 2009 that left about 200 people dead.
“Xi Jinping’s visit is the latest in a series of signals that the squeeze is getting ever tighter out there” in the face of spreading unrest, which entered the Han heartland with a knifing attack in Kunming in March by assailants the government said were from Xinjiang, said a Western diplomat. Officials are nervous about the approach of these anniversaries and Ramadan, which will run for a month starting around June 28, the diplomat said, speaking with customary anonymity.
Patrick Zuo contributed research.