Surveillance in China’s Xinjiang Region: Ethnic Sorting, Coercion, and InducementMay 31, 2019
In February 2013, former XUAR party-secretary Zhang Chunxian announced that 200,000 cadres would be rotated into 9000 different grassroot villages and communities (chiefly in rural Southern Xinjiang) in order to ‘aid and assist’ ordinary citizens over the next three years. The programme is officially known as the ‘explore the people’s conditions; benefit the people’s livelihood; and fuse with the people’s sentiments’ (访民情、惠民生、聚民心) in Chinese, or fanghuiju (访惠聚) or the ‘three-peoples’ (三民) campaign for short.
Xinjiang’s system of ‘village-based work teams’ (驻村工作队) has now been extended indefinitely, with more than 350,000 cadres rotated in and out of local communities over the last five years, with the majority stationed in the rural and remote villages of Southern Xinjiang.
The campaign represents an extraordinary penetration of the Party-state into the daily lives of once isolated Uyghur and Kazakh residents. Each work team comprises five to seven Party cadres, most are Han yet each team is required to have at least one ethnic speaker in Southern Xinjiang, and they are expected (at least initially) to spend an entire year living and working alongside the local residents. The XUAR government promises promotion for those willing to take on this arduous task and warned others that the lack of ‘grassroots experience’ will hinder career advancement.
In addition to monitoring local officials, work teams are also tasked with ‘information gathering and intelligence work’ (情报信息工作) through a routine of daily patrols and household visits. They are told to visit the home of each and every family living within their jurisdiction, a task known as ‘entering the households for interviews’ (入户走访). When carrying out these interviews, work teams must ‘say eight things’ related to Party policies, but also ‘ask eight questions’ and ‘check eight things’, in order to uncover each villagers’ personal and professional lives
During these visits, they are told to look for any potential threats to social stability, such as unregistered knives, chemicals, or other potential weapons, or any suspicious behaviour or unusual views expressed. They are told to pay close attention to any visible manifestations of ‘religious extremism’, and to check for any prohibited materials, such as the ‘three illegal items’ (三非物品)—illegal religious books, posters, maps and manuscripts, and audio-visual products—and offer material rewards for any useful tip-offs or items voluntarily handed over.