Qiemo County is in the Bayin’gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, part of western China’s Xinjiang region in the heart of what was once the ancient Silk Road. In 2014, the Chinese government began a Sinofication programme aimed at reducing the non-Han Chinese population living in Qiemo County by encouraging mixed marriages.
The plan introduced an annual allowance of 10,000 yuan (roughly €1,300) to any mixed couples living in the region to encourage them to have children and speed up the cultural assimilation of the region’s Uyghurs – Xinjiang’s 11 million-strong Turkic-speaking Muslim community – and other minority groups.
The programme, however, has been largely unsuccessful despite the financial rewards for those who wish to be involved. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the leadership of the Communist Party in Beijing is now trying a new strategy to eradicate non-Han Chinese culture in the region.
More than half of the 23 million inhabitants of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region – which the locals refer to by its historical name, East Turkestan – are Uyghurs. According to reports, at least 1 million Uyghurs and other individuals who belong to different ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region have been imprisoned in re-education camps established by the Chinese Communist Party.
Unconfirmed reports from the internment camps are deeply disturbing. As a result, the European Parliament recently directed the European External Action Services to investigate the human rights situation in the Xinjiang, which the Parliament said “has continued to deteriorate as credible reports indicate that the network of internment camps that have been set up to arbitrarily detain an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic peoples has continued to expand. The camps constitute a massive effort to culturally assimilate by force an entire ethnic group and rob the Uyghurs of their identity.”
While these tactics are quite shocking, they do not seem to have had the success first envisioned by Beijing In a sign of their grim determination, China’s Communist Party has now introduced a new education policy for the Uyghurs if they refuse to take part in mixed-marriages.
Certain Uyghur students, those lucky enough not to be detained, will now face discrimination when accessing the university. Instead of allocating extra points to members of the country’s ethnic, religious, and language minorities – which is the standard practice in China – the Xinjiang administration has opted to favour children from mixed Han Chinese and Uyghur families.
The regional government doubled the number of bonus points allocated to interethnic students (those having one Han parent) to 20, while students with both parents from the same ethnic minority will see their score decreased by 15 points.
For Uyghur students who want to be among the half that will have the chance to be admitted into China’s higher education institutes this distinction based on parentage has broad ramifications.
The Gaokao examination is taken by Chinese students in their third and final year of high school. It is the sole criterion for admission to Chinese universities. In 2018, around 5 million students passed the Gaokao exam out of the 10 million who sat the test. Chinese statistics on interethnic marriages are not so easily found, but national data from a 2010 census suggests that only 0.2% of Han Chinese and Uyghurs have intermarried, leaving the region’s indigenous Uyghurs at a distinct disadvantage to succeed in their own homeland as they will now be denied the possibility of pursuing a higher education.
The totalitarian, ethnicity-based ideology of the Chinese Communist Party’s policy towards the Uyghurs continues to steadily progress as it scrambles to erase the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities from the cultural landscape.