Islamophobia and Party Policy in 2013: Evidence from Turpan

What is this?

This is a translation of an August 2013 document issued by the Publicity Department of the Turpan Municipal Party Committee. Turpan is a prefecture-level city (think like a very large county in terms of comparable size and jurisdiction in much of the Anglosphere) that is majority Uyghur. Party Committees are generally the main entity of local governance in China, and the Publicity Department is a local brach of the national Publicity Department of the CCP (formerly the Propaganda Department, before they changed the official English translation). This document details the efforts made by the government of Binhu District (population: approx. 300,000) with regards to certain classes of people within it—the "four special groups."

Where did this come from?

I first noticed the source when it was cited by Adrian Zenz in "Thoroughly Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude': China's Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang," a peer-reviewed article that I went through and summarized here. Opinions on Zenz are... polarizing, to say the least. The dude does not like gays, for instance, so I was never a fan of the man at a personal level, but his research is generally solid. Thus, my idea of translating some of the original material from Mandarin.

The original source, which was hosted on an official website maintained by the Turpan CCP, is no longer available. The root URL/domain has changed and no article with a title like the one cited seems to exist anymore. Funny how that works. Regardless, an archived version in the original Chinese can be found here.

What does this show?

This document predated the current mass detention and reeducation campaign by about three-and-a-half years, but it shows the state singling out individuals solely based on religious expression: they are identified by sartorial/style choices as opposed to any concrete, demonstrable radicalized behavior that might ever pose a threat to public safety. Paragraph two lists these groups specifically: "those wearing niqāb, young people with beards, those wearing jilbāb, and those with clothing with the star and crescent."

This is the exact same breed of Islamophobia that has infected U.S. law enforcement post-9/11. The following excerpt is taken from "Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims," a 2013 report by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, the CUNY Law-affiliated Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) Project, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund:


Almost all our interviewees noted that appearing Muslim, or appearing to be a certain type of Muslim, invites unwanted attention or surveillance from law enforcement. Outward displays of Muslim identity could include the choice to wear the hijab (headscarf), the niqab (full covering), grow a beard, or dress in certain kinds of traditional or Islamic clothing. That surveillance should focus on such details results from the NYPD’s radicalization theory, which posits that decisions about dress or appearance are no longer just signifiers of personal, religious choices or cultural identities but rather serve as indicators of “dangerousness.” (p. 15)

Indeed, in the NYPD's own words, "typical signatures" of radicalization (specifically, Salafism), include:


• Giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster clothes. • Wearing traditional Islamic clothing, growing a beard • Becoming involved in social activism and community issues ("Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat," p. 31)

See the issue here?

Compared to what would come in a few years in China, however, Turpan's efforts are much less severe; while paragraph four mentions "transformation through education" (jiaoyu zhuanhua 教育转化), I am unaware of any evidence that this is related to the mass extralegal detention of the kind seen today, despite the shared terminology (though broadly targeted ideological "education" programs did exist before 2017, such as in Ghulja (Mandarin source)). (Zenz' 2018 work stated that at the time, "'Transformation through education' goals were determined on a case-by-case basis and implemented through home visits and vocational training rather than internment in dedicated facilities." Overall, this is an important look into the historical context of what is going in Xinjiang.)

So, without further ado:


Turpan City Binhu District Emphasizes Aid and Educational Transformation for 'Four Special Groups of People'


The Binhu District in the old district of Turpan attaches great importance to aiding and educational transformation of the "four special groups", and regards the assistance and educational transformation of the four as a key task for innovation of social management and maintaining social stability. [Through] active adoption of effective measures, energetically developing institutionalized inspection, humanizing aid [measures], and family educational work, [we] have effectively achieved initial results.


The first of these results is the establishment of a scientific mechanism to strengthen institutional safeguards [or guarantees]. A special meeting was called to formulate the "[Binhu] District 'Four Special Groups' Aid and Transformation Working Plan", clarifying the goals of implementing the transformation of special groups, [namely:] those wearing niqāb, young people with beards, those wearing jilbāb, and those wearing clothing with the star and crescent; and improving the responsibility system and assessment of rewards and punishment mechanisms. [We also] Established a one-person, one-case special group poverty assistance ledger, and confirmed the responsible parties for the "five helping one" assistance poverty transformation [program].


The second is the institutionalized inspections to quickly establish the basics [i.e. basic facts, circumstances]. Communities [or neighborhoods] have adopted a variety of forms such as centralized inspections, regular household visits, and information provided by the public to quickly ascertain and grasp the ideological trends of the four special groups, as well as their practical problems in employment, medical treatment, production, and life. [In so doing, we have] succeeded in [the] “situation is clear once the basics are ascertained" [program].


The third is the promotion of humane assistance and transformation through education. Taking a people-oriented [approach] as key, we have formulated different measures for different targets of assistance and transformation [programs], and carried out various, highly targeted legal, ethical, situational, and policy education. Examples include: sending policies to homes [送政策到家, apparently sending policy documents to people's houses, at least in the case of Qingdao] party members' heart-to-heart service, employment assistance, vocational training, actively provide consultation and services for the special groups, and achieving equal emphasis on service and education.