Spirit Breaking: Capitalism and Terror in Northwest ChinaJanuary 01, 2019
Th[e] rhetoric of terror was taken to a new level with the 2014 “People’s War on Terror” against the Uyghur population of the country. One of the first things instituted under the emergency provisions of “the war” was a passbook system that restricted the movement of Uyghur migrants. This system, known as the “People’s Convenient Card” system . . . required Uyghurs whose household registration . . . was not in an urban location to return to their hometowns and obtain a “good citizen” card in order to return. Like the passbook system that was instituted in Apartheid South Africa, the goal of this system was to force the unwanted racial other from locations that were desired by the settler population.
By May of 2016 the system was taken to a new level. At this time, even if Uyghurs had the card, those without urban household registration were not allowed to leave their home counties without permission. There were checkpoints between every county, and crossing the county line required a letter and with a stamp from local authorities. As a result, even those who previously had legal permission to live in Ürümchi and other urban locations were now forced to return to the countryside. Often when they arrive back in the countryside they are subject to detention.