China: Visiting Officials Occupy Homes in Muslim RegionMay 13, 2018
Since 2014, Xinjiang authorities have sent 200,000 cadres from government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions to regularly visit and surveil people. Authorities state that this initiative, known as “fanghuiju” (访惠聚, an acronym that stands for “Visit the People, Benefit the People, and Get Together the Hearts of the People” [访民情、惠民生、聚民心]), is broadly designed to “safeguard social stability.”
In October 2016, authorities initiated a related effort, called the “Becoming Family” (结对认亲) campaign. About 110,000 officials visit the largely Turkic Muslim population in southern Xinjiang every two months with a view toward “fostering ethnic harmony.” This “Becoming Family” campaign has been greatly expanded in recent months. In December 2017, Xinjiang authorities mobilized more than a million cadres to spend a week living in homes primarily in the countryside. They typically stay with Muslim families, though sometimes cadres are dispatched to stay with Han families.
In early 2018, Xinjiang authorities extended this “home stay” program. Cadres spend at least five days every two months in the families’ homes. There is no evidence to suggest that families can refuse such visits.
The cadres perform several functions during their stay. They collect and update information about the families, such as whether they have local hukous – household registration – or are migrants from another region, their political views, and their religion. The visiting cadres observe and report on any “problems” or “unusual situations” – which can range from uncleanliness to alcoholism to the extent of religious beliefs – and act to “rectify” the situation. Cadres also carry out political indoctrination, including promoting “Xi Jinping Thought” and explaining the Chinese Communist Party’s “care” and “selflessness” in its policies toward Xinjiang. They also warn people against the dangers of “pan-Islamism,” “pan-Turkism,” and “pan-Kazakhism” – ideologies or identities that the government finds threatening.
Cadres are tasked with imposing a sense of ethnic unity between the families and the Han majority. They teach the families Mandarin, the Han majority language; make them sing the Chinese national anthem and other songs praising the Chinese Communist Party; and ensure families participate in the weekly national flag-raising ceremony. Cadres and the families are also required to participate in activities together, such as Han Chinese New Year festivities, as well as group games, dancing, and sports. Cadres are also required to help the families, from sweeping the grounds and planting seedlings to helping them obtain government benefits and subsidies, regardless of whether such assistance has been requested.
The cadres meticulously document their activities, including by submitting reports of the homestays with accompanying photos. Some of these photos and videos can be found on the Wechat and Weibo accounts of the participating agencies, which show scenes of cadres living with minority families, including in the most intimate aspects of domestic life, such as cadres and family members making beds and sleeping together, sharing meals, and feeding and tutoring their children. None of these videos or photos are posted by the visited families, and there is no indication that they consented to having them posted online.