Wednesday, 11 April 2018

No ID, No Subway Ride in Urumqi

Some passengers got to try out the new subway in Urumqi yesterday
Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang will have its first metro system up and running by the end of the year and already the government has stated that Uyghurs need to produce their identification cards before they can buy tickets.

This is in addition to other regulations that Uyghurs need to produce their ID when buying train tickets and long-distance bus rides (since last March).

If you are caught using someone else's ID card, you can be fined between 50 to 200 yuan (US$7.90-$31.70).

Uyghurs need to show ID to buy subway tickets
Maya Wang, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, says the requirement is "part of an ever tightening web of surveillance and control in Xinjiang".

The government claims violence is rooted from Islamic extremists and separatists, but Uyghur advocates say it's the government's repression of religious freedom and unfair ethnic policies in the region that have resulted in resentment and violence.

Han Chinese authorities have been increasing security and surveillance measures throughout the region since 2016, including thousands of newly installed street-corner police stations.

These days Urumqi residents often have to provide their ID or undergo facial scans at the city's numerous security check points.

"Think of how many checkpoints an Urumqi resident must go through every day," Wang says. "And you are already required to use your real name for intra-city travel."

Security continues to be very strict in Xinjiang
All this monitoring using the latest technology coupled with heavy policing has resulted in what critics describe as a "massive police state".

It's so extreme that in some stations, no liquid, not even water is allowed, according to one resident who wished to remain anonymous.

"I think everyone is already mentally prepared for how strict the subways will be," he said.

It really doesn't have to be this extreme, but the heightened security measures in that region just make tensions between Han Chinese and Uyghurs even worse. When will the mistrust end?

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