World Bulletin / News Desk
Chinese authorities in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, otherwise known as East Turkestan, are offering cash handouts to the region's native Uighur Turks to entice them into assimilating with Han Chinese settlers through marriage.
Officials in Cherchen County in the region's south last week declared they will be offering the incentive in a bid to quell violence between the two ethnic groups, which has plagued the region for decades and is increasing.
According to the New York Times, any couple which sees one Han Chinese partner paired with a member from one of China’s 55 ethnic minorities will receive $1,600 a year for five years as well as priority for housing or government jobs.
Furthermore, racially mixed families will receive $3,200 a year in health care benefits in addition to free education from kindergarten to high school for their children, the newspaper reported.
The county’s official website also announced it will give children of such marriages who attend vocational schools almost $500 a year in tuition subsidies and $800 a year to those attending university.
Georgetown University expert on Xinjiang, James A. Millward, warned that such measures could be interpreted “as an attempt to Sinify the Uighurs.”
“This comes at a time when many Uighurs see such recent policies as the destruction of old Kashgar in the name of development, the elimination of Uighur-language education, and continuing Han migration into the Uighur traditional homelands in Xinjiang as all threatening the preservation of a distinctive Uighur culture,” Millward told the New York Times.
Xinjiang, known as East Turkestan by the native Uighurs, have over the decades gradually been phased out by Han Chinese settlers, who according to a 2000 census now make up 40 percent of the region's population, almost equaling the Uighur population which stands at 43 percent. Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz and Mongols make up the remaining 17 percent.
The region has rich coal, oil and gas reserves and is strategically located on the borders of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Uighurs, the vast majority of whom are Muslims, have long complained about Chinese curbs on their religion, language and culture since China's Communist regime took over in 1949. In the latest incidents, Uighur students and hospital staff were forbidden from fasting in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and were disciplined if they refused to eat during fasting hours.
Chinese state media reported that authorities in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi closed 27 places used for "underground" preaching and detained 44 imams as part of an operation to "rescue" 82 children from religious schools known as madrassas.
China punishes the study of Islam outside the confines of tightly controlled state mosques and children are prohibited from attending madrassas, prompting many parents who wish to provide a religious education to use underground schools.
Last month, the Xinjiang city of Karamay has temporarily banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses, a policy critics have said openly discriminates against Uighurs.
Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's repressive policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest that killed hundreds in the past year and a half, including around 100 people in July.
Also in July, detained Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, a well-known economist who has championed the rights of the Muslim Uighur community, was charged with promoting and supporting Xinjiang's independence from China.
His case has drawn attention from the United States and European Union and is seen by rights groups as part of a broader crackdown on dissent in Xinjiang.Last Mod: 04 Eylül 2014, 16:21