Many young Uygurs regularly complain that they lose out to Han applicants when it comes to getting a job.
A police recruitment notice seeking applicants of Han origin who speak fluent Uygur sheds some light on the problems they face.
The notice, criticised by labour law experts as blatantly discriminatory, came as no great surprise to Uygur rights activists.
They said recruitment notices specifying Han applicants had been common in Xinjiang for private and government positions, and the situation had only begun to improve after the deadly clashes in Urumqi last July.
The notice, posted online in September 2007 but which has only now come to light, appealed to the Xinjiang public security and safety bureaus for four police officers to work in Yiwu, Zhejiang, a busy commodity trading city with a growing population of Uygurs.
The notice specified applicants must be Han and supporters of the Communist Party, have a clean disciplinary record and have passed the civil service examination, be unmarried and under 30, healthy and fluent in Uygur and familiar with Uygur customs.
The Yiwu Police Bureau could not be reached for comment yesterday but a person familiar with police work in the city confirmed that Uygur-speaking officers had been hired from Xinjiang in the past few years.
'To have someone who knows their culture and speaks their language can definitely help,' he said, referring to a Uygur population that is one of the largest outside Xinjiang and hence a potential source of security problems for the authorities.
Professor Cai Dingjian , a specialist on employment discrimination from the Chinese University for Politics and Law, said any recruitment specifying ethnic origin was 'clearly forbidden under Chinese law'.
While ability should be the sole criteria for employment, mainland laws against employment discrimination were generally weak, Cai said.
But in the case of ethnic origin, labour laws unambiguously spelled out that 'no workers should be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, race, gender and religious beliefs'. And while civil servants were not subject to the laws, they were still subject to the constitutional prohibition of discrimination.
Many young Uygurs say they have long struggled with employment discrimination in Xinjiang, where employers, mostly Han, regularly stress the need for 'high Han language standards' as an excuse to reject Uygur applicants, even though many young Uygurs learn Putonghua at school alongside Han classmates.
'I applied to work for the police in Xinjiang three times after I graduated in 2007, but failed each time,' said 25-year-old Annar, whose childhood dream was to become a police officer. Her father is a veteran Xinjiang police officer with 30 years' service.
She was never told the reasons for her failures - at one attempt she passed every test, from written to oral to health, but was rejected at the last minute - but she suspected it was due to the limited number of positions open for Uygur and female applicants.
Of the 566 jobs offered in police bureaus in Xinjiang in 2007, 265 were reserved for Han. Nearly a hundred were open to all applicants and about 100 were reserved for Uygurs.
The favouritism shown towards Han applicants was even more blatant in Communist Party offices, with two-thirds of the 66 positions reserved for Han.
No further recruitment notices could be found online regarding Uygur-speaking police in Yiwu. Xinjiang civil service recruitment notices in the past two years still reserved a big number of positions for Han. But in a recruitment notice for 1,500 special police in November the wordings had been changed, calling for 'applicants with Xinjiang hukou (residency permits)'.