Hukou blitz in lead-up to Xinjiang anniversary

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 June, 2010, 12:00am

Authorities in the capital of the restive Xinjiang region have launched a three-month security campaign targeting non-permanent residents in the lead-up to the first anniversary of the deadly unrest that gripped the city in July last year.

In an apparent bid to pre-empt the worst ethnic violence in the region in recent decades, which left nearly 200 people dead, local police in Urumqi announced they would soon start door-to-door checks for those who do not have hukou, or residential certification.

The clampdown will start next Monday and last until August 14, although the three-month campaign actually began on Thursday, according to the China News Service.

'The rectification of hukou would focus on temporary and mobile residents, including foreigners, college graduates, the unemployed and those recently released from jail,' it reported.

Although the report made no mention of the sensitive anniversary of the biggest clash between Han Chinese and Uygurs in recent history, mainland analysts said the campaign was clearly aimed at plugging security loopholes.

An expert on ethnic affairs at Minzu University of China, Professor Yang Shengmin , said the campaign was based on the need to maintain security.

The situation in Urumqi remained tense, according to local residents, with armed police and riot police patrolling the main streets. Regional authorities also staged the largest anti-riot drill since last year's violence on Thursday in Urumqi, involving nearly 1,000 armed police.

Professor Pan Zhiping, a specialist in Central Asian affairs at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said local authorities had been put on high alert as the anniversary approached. 'Although it is unlikely we'll see massive unrest like last year, no one can be 100 per cent sure about small security hiccups,' he said.

Urumqi erupted in chaos last year as Uygurs - most of whom are Muslims - went on a rampage directed mainly at the dominant Han Chinese on July 5, with organised retaliation by thousands of Han two days later.

Authorities said they believed most of the rioters were unlawful migrants from Uygur-populated southern Xinjiang, many of whom had criminal records. The poor management of migrants in the city had become one of the biggest lessons for local authorities after the unrest last year, Pan said.

Police had launched a similar citywide campaign, checking on the mobile and temporary population in Urumqi, earlier. It began in January and lasted three months.

'Apparently, the problems cannot be solved with a single campaign, and it remains a difficult task to regulate nearly 300,000 migrants in the city who have contributed greatly to the city's economic development,' Pan said.

The strict household registration system has long been criticised by Uygur activist groups as one example of Beijing's discriminatory policies, along with the migration of tens of thousands of Han to Xinjiang.

The government has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to handle the aftermath of the rioting. While launching sweeping crackdowns on activists in the past year, it also mapped out plans to promote Chinese-language education and invest huge amounts in the poor region.

Beijing also plans to send hundreds of elite Han Chinese cadres across the country to 'help with Xinjiang's development'.