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DNA samples required as Xinjiang tightens Ramadan immigration procedures

Nectar Gan
Two ethnic Uighur women pass Chinese paramilitary policemen standing guard outside the Grand Bazaar in the Uighur district of the city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images

People living in a border prefecture in Xinjiang must now give DNA samples when applying for travel documents.

The regulations were put in force before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on Monday and was marked by the government's customary ban on fasting by civil servants, students and children.

Residents in the Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture who wanted to apply for any type of immigration documents had to go to the police station nearest their registered homes to have their DNA samples, fingerprints, voiceprints and a three-dimensional image collected, the prefectural Communist Party committee newspaper Yili Daily said.

The new policy applies to ­applications for passports, two-way permits to and Macau, entry permits to Taiwan, and renewals of these permits. Applicants who failed to provide all the biological identification ­information would have their applications refused, the report said.

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The prefecture of Yili, bordering Kazakhstan, is an ethnically diverse area of 2.5 million people, including Kazakhs, Uygurs and Mongolians. Some 64.7 per cent of residents are ethnic minorities and the rest Han Chinese.

The policy comes amid efforts to combat a surge in violence in Xinjiang blamed by the authorities on Islamist separatists allegedly linked to jihadist militant groups including Islamic State.

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Uygur rights groups say government restrictions on Islam have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where hundreds have died in attacks in recent years.

The government said in a white paper last week that freedom of religion in the region was "unparalleled" compared to any other period in Xinjiang's history.

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The Communist Party is officially atheist and for years has banned government employees and minors from fasting in ­Xinjiang, home to more than 10 million, mostly Muslim, Uygurs.

Several local government ­departments in Xinjiang have posted notices on their websites in the past week ordering restrictions on fasting during Ramadan.

"Party members, cadres, civil servants, students and minors must not fast for Ramadan and must not take part in religious activities," a notice on the government website of central Xinjiang's Korla city said. "During the month of Ramadan, food and drink businesses must not close," it added.

Yili Daily said the number of applications for travel documents in Yili had "skyrocketed" in the past year, from 20,000 in 2014 to 100,000 in 2015, after the authorities "twice simplified application requirements".

More than 200,000 travel documents were expected to be issued this year, the report said.

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