The 2017 Xinjiang De-extremification Regulations

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region De-extremification Regulations (新疆维吾尔自治区去极端化条例], archived here). The regulations were passed in March 2017 by the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

I got like forty-five minutes into translating this when I realized that a) there is a revised 2018 edition of the law, and b) that law has already been translated by the good people at China Law Translate. So I'll link you to the China Law Translate translation and just highlight a few sections I find particularly salient from the 2017 version, all of which appear to accord with the revised version. The main takeaway here should be how extremely broad the government's definition of illegal, extremist behavior is, which is particularly clear in Article 9. Think about how this broadness could be abused for otherwise normal religious activity taken up by a willing individual of their own accord—is this an acceptable way of treating an entire religious group within the region? Here's a quick and very conservative list of behaviors explicitly or implicitly banned by these regulations:

  • Growing your beard too long ("abnormally")
  • Wearing niqāb of your own accord
  • Naming your child Mohammad*
  • Sharing any content the state, through its extremely broad and vague definition of extremism, finds objectionable
  • Saying something interpreted by the state as extremist to others
  • Protesting any of these policies you find objectionable

* A month after the publication of these regulations, the New York Times claims to have received a copy of a list of "abnormal names" from unspecified Uyghur activist groups. The article says banned names including Mohammed, Arafat, Jihad, Mujahid, and Medina.

The above are the most generous reading, but as further posts will demonstrate, evidence in various forms—from victim testimony to leaked government documents and published academic studies by researchers within China—shows that the reckless broadness of the Regulations lends itself to arbitrary and unpredictable detention, which the Chinese government has shown little desire to correct. "Reckless" is, frankly, too generous of a term—these legal foundations for grave overreach are a feature, not a bug.

There is extensive research revealing a culture of fear even among Xinjiang expatriates living abroad as their relatives within China disappear or otherwise grow silent. Evidence such as this 2020 report from Amnesty International, based on interviews with 400 Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Chinese Muslim minority diaspora members, are typically written off as western propaganda. The goal of this post is not to prove atrocities are occurring; rather, to show as a baseline the fact that broad laws exist within China that create extremely easy conditions for arbitrary repression of Muslims.

Xinjiang's de-extremification regulations were by no means novel in 2017, although its formal codification at the regional level was nonetheless notable. For example, Turpan, a Uyghur-majority prefecture-level city, similarly singled out people based on religious expression as early as 2013. From a Turpan Municipal Party Committee document (in all translations on this blog, I strive to provide as much context as possible, if not full documents; however, highlighted text is often sufficient to make the point needed):

吐鲁番市老城街道滨湖社区高度重视对“四种特殊人群”的帮扶和教育转化,把四类特殊群体帮扶和教育转化工作作为创新社会管理、维护社会稳定的一项重点工作。积极采取有效措施,大力开展制度化排查、人性化帮扶、亲情化教育工作,取得了初步成效。 一是建立科学化机制,强化制度保证。召开专题会议制定《社区“四类特殊人群”帮扶转化工作方案》,明确了开展蒙面纱、年轻人留胡须、穿吉力巴甫服、着星月服饰特殊人群帮扶转化工作目标,完善了责任制度和考核奖惩机制。建立了一人一档的特殊人群帮扶转化台帐,确定了“五帮一”帮扶转化责任人。

Binhu Community 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] Community '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 original source, which was hosted on an official website maintained by the Turpan CCP, is no longer available. An archived version can be found here.)

The identification of individuals as extremist based exclusively on clothing is the exact same manifestation of Islamophobia that had infected US 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? In the following regulations, note how what qualifies as extremism is not concisely defined beyond something that "incite[s] hatred, discrimination, and violence." As shall be detailed in later posts, this gives massive leeway to the state to decide what qualifies as criminally extremist ideology; promoting violence is far, far broader in practice than literal calls for violence.

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region De-extremification Regulations 新疆维吾尔自治区去极端化条例


(Passed on March 29, 2017 at the 28th Meeting of the 12th Session of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region People's Congress Standing Committee)

第一章 总 则 第一条 为了遏制和消除极端化,防范极端化侵害,实现社会稳定和长治久安,根据《中华人民共和国宪法》《中华人民共和国反恐怖主义法》、国务院《宗教事务条例》等有关法律、法规,结合自治区实际,制定本条例。

Section 1 General Principles Article 1 In order to curb and eliminate extremism, guard against the encroachment of extremism, and achieve social stability and lasting, peaceful order, the following Regulations are forumulated in accordance the "Constitution of the People's Republic of China," the "Anti-Terrorism Law of the People's Republic of China," the State Council's "Regulations on Religious Affairs," and other relevant laws and regulations, integrated with the realities of the autonomous region.

第三条 本条例所称极端化,是指受极端主义影响,渲染偏激的宗教思想观念,排斥、干预正常生产、生活的言论和行为。本条例所称极端主义,是指以歪曲宗教教义或者其他方法煽动仇恨、煽动歧视、鼓吹暴力等的主张和行为。自治区预防、遏制和消除极端化,预防和惩治极端主义犯罪活动。

Article 3 The term “extremification” in these Regulations refers to speech and action influenced by extremism; which is exaggerated, radical religious thought [or ideology]; or which rejects or interferes with normal productivity and livelihood. The term “extremism” in these Regulations refers to advocacy or actions which, through the distortion of religious doctrine or other means, incite hatred, discrimination, and violence. The Autonomous Region prevents, curbs and eliminates extremism, and guards against and punishes extremist criminal activity.

第四条 去极端化应当坚持党的宗教工作基本方针,坚持宗教中国化、法治化方向,积极引导宗教与社会主义社会相适应。

Article 4 De-extremification should adhere to the party’s basic policy of religious work, continue toward Sinicization of religion [宗教中国化] and rule of law, and actively guide the adaptation of religion to socialist society.

第七条 任何单位和个人应当自觉抵制和反对极端化,检举揭发极端化言行。

Article 7 All work units and individuals must consciously resist and oppose extremism, [as well as] report and expose extremist words and deeds.

第二章 极端化的主要表现 第九条 受极端主义影响,下列言论和行为属于极端化,予以禁止: (一)宣扬、散布极端化思想的; (二)干涉他人宗教信仰自由,强迫他人参加宗教活动,强迫他人向宗教活动场所、宗教教职人员提供财物或者劳务的; (三)干涉他人婚丧嫁娶、遗产继承等活动的; (四)干涉他人与其他民族或者有其他信仰的人员交往交流交融、共同生活,驱赶其他民族或者有其他信仰的人员离开居住地的; (五)干预文化娱乐活动,排斥、拒绝广播、电视等公共产品和服务的; (六)泛化清真概念,将清真概念扩大到清真食品领域之外的其他领域,借不清真之名排斥、干预他人世俗生活的; (七)自己或强迫他人穿戴蒙面罩袍、佩戴极端化标志的; (八)以非正常蓄须、起名渲染宗教狂热的; (九)不履行法律手续以宗教方式结婚或者离婚的; (十)不允许子女接受国民教育,妨碍国家教育制度实施的; (十一)恐吓、诱导他人抵制享受国家政策,故意损毁居民身份证、户口簿等国家法定证件以及污损人民币的; (十二)故意损毁、破坏公私财物的; (十三)出版、印刷、发行、销售、制作、下载、存储、复制、查阅、摘抄、持有含极端化内容的文章、出版物、音视频的; (十四)蓄意干涉或破坏计划生育政策实施的; (十五)其他极端化言论和行为。

Section 2 Main manifestations of extremism Article 9 Influenced by extremism, the following speech and behaviors are [instances/types of] extremification and are prohibited: (1) Propagating and spreading extreme thoughts; (2) Interfering with the freedom of other people's religious beliefs, forcing others to participate in religious activities, or forcing others to provide property or labor to religious venues or staff; (3) Interfering in activities such as others' marriages, funerals, and inheritances; (4) Interfering with exchange, interaction, mixing and co-living between other ethnic groups or religions, and driving people of other ethnicities or religions to leave their place of residence; (5) Interfering in cultural and entertainment activities, rejecting public products and services such as radio and television; (6) Generalizing the concept of halal, expanding the concept of halal to other fields beyond halal food, and rejecting or interfering in the secular life of others under the pretense of being halal; (7) Wearing or forcing others to wear garments covering the face or wear symbols of extremism; (8) Exaggerating religious fanaticism with abnormal beards and names; (9) Religious marriage or divorce without fulfilling legal procedures; (10) Not allowing children to receive national education or hindering the implementation of the national education system; (11) Intimidating or inducing others to boycott the enjoyment of national policies, deliberately destroying national statutory documents such as resident ID cards, household registration books, and defacement of RMB; (12) Intentionally damaging or destroying public or private property; (13) Publishing, printing, distributing, selling, producing, downloading, storing, copying, consulting, extracting, holding articles, publications, audio and video with extreme content; (14) Deliberately interfering with or undermining the implementation of the family planning policy; (15) Other extremist speech and behavior.