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CHINA: Transfer of 400,000 young Uyghur women into Eastern China

Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l, Brussels, Belgium
(Uyghur Human Rights Project)
June 19, 2008

Official Government Policy

One of the most pressing and provoking issues to the Uyghurs in East Turkestan is the recent transfer of young, unmarried and mostly teenage Uyghur girls to 'work' in factories located in China's eastern provinces.[1] Since June 2006, a new policy to recruit and transfer young Uyghur women has been implemented in East Turkestan, especially in the southern area of the region where the Uyghur population is in the majority, in the name of "providing employment opportunities and generating income" for the poor farming families who live there. The eventual goal of this policy, as part of the 11th Five Year Plan of the Chinese government, is to transfer some 400,000 young Uyghur women from these farming families to China's eastern provinces.[2]

Local authorities consider the transfer of the Uyghur labor force into China's eastern provinces as one of the most important policies of the government, and they have expressed zero tolerance to any kind of opposition to it. Speaking at the Xinjiang Kashgar to Tianjin Labor Force Transfer Group Leaders Cadres' Conference in April 2007, Shi Dagang, Party Secretary of the Kashgar Region, said, "Transferring the rural labor force is an all-inclusive and major directional policy, closely tied to the future development of our region. Allowing the Uyghur public to work in the exterior through various means is an important step toward generating more income for the farmers and developing the Uyghur people. Whomever obstructs the Uyghur public from working in the exterior will become the criminal of Kashgar and the criminal of the Uyghur people."[3]

Large-Scale Transfer of Young Uyghur Women

Already, hundreds of thousands of young Uyghur women have been transferred from East Turkestan into Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu, Qingdao, Shandong, Zhejiang, and other locations. The Xinjiang Daily reported on March 20, 2007 that there had been 240,000 instances of the transfer of the local labor force from the Kashgar Region to China's eastern provinces in 2006.[4] Since Han Chinese girls living in East Turkistan are not recruited and transferred to work under this new policy, it is assumed that most, if not all, of these transferred women are Uyghur.

The situation of Yopurgha County of Kashgar Region is one typical example of the rise in the eastward transfer of young, female Uyghurs. In 2006 alone 2,450 young Uyghur women, mostly 15- to 22-year olds, were transferred to Shandong Province to 'work.'[5] But these types of figures have been increasing rapidly in 2007. In Payziwat County, the number of Uyghur women transferred, mainly to Tianjin Zhongji Xunqing Clothing Ltd., had already reached 3,000 for the year 2007 in March.[6] In March 2007 alone, 696 young women were transferred from this county.[7] In Yengishahar County, 186 Uyghur women have been transferred in 2007.[8] It is expected the total number of young women who are involved in this type of transfer will increase to up to 8,000 by the end of 2007.[9] In Yarkan County, 500 young women were transferred in March to work at the Qingdao Xinyungan Clothing Factory.[10] In February, 500 were transferred to the Zhejiang Province Bofa Office Supplies Group Holdings Company and the Qingdao Xinyungan Clothing Factory.[11] Furthermore, official plans call for the transfer of a total of 6,000 young Uyghur women from Yarkan County in 2007.[12]

Official Involvement and Harassment

In order to facilitate such large-scale transfers, local county and village officials, backed by regional and autonomous governments and through the use of aggressive propaganda and even coercive measures, have been heavily involved in forcing Uyghur farmers to allow their daughters to be recruited and transferred to China's eastern provinces to 'work.'[13] Chinese officials have admitted that they forced farmers to send their daughters to 'work' in China's eastern provinces because they would have been removed from their posts if they had refused to do so.[14]

Tursun Barat, the village head of the Number Eight village in Yarkan County, said, "We did force the girls to go."[15] Barat also said that one county official, who refused to force farmers to send their daughters away, was removed from his position.[16] Village officials in the neighboring Number Nine village threatened farmers with the confiscation of their farming lands and the destruction of their houses.[17] The farmers' daughters were threatened with the confiscation of their resident registration cards and the refusal to issue them marriage certificates.[18] Awut Teyip, the head of the Number Nine village, while denying any responsibility to the parents of transferred young women, said, "Our job is to follow central directives without asking any questions."[19]

Treatment of Young Uyghur Women after their Transfer

In order to entice Uyghur parents to send their daughters to China's eastern provinces, they are told that their daughters will be given 500 yuan (approx. US$65) per month in the early months of the training period and then 900 to 1,100 yuan (approx. US$125 to $135) for their work per month.[20] However, once the young women are transferred, the treatment they experience is completely different from what they have been promised. Their salaries are not paid on time.[21] They are forced to work up to 12 hours each day.[22] They are not even allowed to speak in Uyghur, either at work or in their free time.[23] In addition, they are not allowed to freely return to their hometowns.[24]

As a result of such harsh treatment, several Uyghur women have fled to East Turkestan. Patigul Yunus and Patigul Siyit are two of the 228 Uyghurs women who were transferred from Yarkan County to Shandong Province, and later to the city of Qingdao on March 28, 2007.[25] The two girls fled to the regional capital of Urumchi, not their hometown, after they were mistreated by both company officials and officials who had accompanied them during their transfer.[26] Recently, another young woman, 19 years old, fled to East Turkestan with six others.[27] She told the Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service in an interview that the young women had given alcohol to their directors in order to make them intoxicated at a party one night, and that they fled the following morning with the help of Uyghurs who were doing business near the factory where they had been working.[28] She also said that the Uyghurs who helped them were threatened with arrest for providing them with assistance, so they left the area as well.[29]

Parents Feel Remorse

Many Uyghur farmers whose daughters have been transferred to China's eastern provinces are speaking out against such transfers and feeling a great deal of remorse for sending their own children to places they have never seen or even heard of. For instance, Aynisa Tohti's father does not know which province his daughter, along with 212 other young women, was transferred to by village officials in March.[30] He said he was forced to let his daughter leave and feels great regret for sending her to an unknown location.[31] He stated that he wanted his daughter to come back but did not know how to bring this about.[32] Aynisa's father is only one of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur parents who feel tremendous remorse for sending their daughters to China's eastern provinces to 'work.'

Uyghur Tradition and Official Motives

Traditionally, the Uyghur people do not send their children, especially young females, to distant lands, except for sending them to get a higher education. The transfer of young Uyghur women has therefore become a major concern among Uyghurs, not only for those farmers whose daughters have been transferred to China's eastern provinces but also among Uyghur intellectuals, both in East Turkestan and abroad. Many Uyghurs see such transfers as an attack on the honor of Uyghur women and the dignity of Uyghur men. Many also see this as one of the most humiliating and provocative policies to date on the part of PRC government authorities. In the Uyghur culture, it is a most humiliating and provocative act to take Uyghur women against their will from the Uyghur community without paying due respect for the way of life and values of the Uyghur people. Most Uyghurs view the transfers as just this type of act.

While Uyghurs do not have a tradition of compelling women to stay at home and prohibiting them from working outside the home, as in some Middle Eastern cultures, and they welcome the opportunity to let their daughters work outside the home, many ask the question of why their daughters were not given local jobs, or even sent to get an education, since most are of school age. They suspect that government authorities have ulterior motives in offering local jobs to Han Chinese settlers while simultaneously sending their daughters to cities and towns in eastern provinces. They do not seem to be content with the stated reasons that the authorities provide to justify the transfers. However, Uyghur parents seem to be uncomfortable with sending their children to China's eastern provinces regardless of the motives of the PRC government authorities.

At present, local and central government authorities continue to aggressively implement a policy of transferring young Uyghur women despite Uyghur resistance and resentment to the policy. It seems unlikely that the PRC government will soon change the policy and stop the transfer of Uyghur girls into China's eastern provinces. But this policy has already backfired and unnecessarily increased tensions between the Uyghurs and the government. The further pursuit of this imprudent policy would be perceived as an extreme insult by the Uyghur people in East Turkestan, justifiably exacerbating their feelings of repression and their mistrust of Chinese government authorities. Continuation of the policy would certainly not bring about genuine "ethnic harmony" in East Turkestan, as PRC authorities have recently touted as one of their primary goals. Instead, it would only deepen the sense of extreme mistrust of government officials felt by the Uyghur community, further marginalize the Uyghur people and possibly lead to social unrest.


In light of the ethnic marginalization and Uyghur mistrust of government officials in East Turkestan and the deeply offensive nature of the large-scale transfer of Uyghur girls into China's eastern provinces, the Chinese government should:

- Immediately stop the implementation of this policy
- Immediately return the Uyghur girls to their hometowns
- Compensate the girls for their work and travel expenses
- Send them to local schools or offer them local jobs
- Punish officials who have forced girls to be transferred against their will

[1] Radio Free Asia (RFA), Uyghur Girls Transferred to Mainland China, Jan. 17, 2007.
[2] RFA, Chinese Authorities Planned to Transfer 400,000 Uyghur Women, Sep. 27, 2006.
[3] Emphasis added, 喀什地区经济信息中心, 新疆喀什在津务工领队干部座谈会上的发言(节选), Apr. 17, 2007, at
[4] RFA, Last Year Female Labor Force Transfer from Kashgar Reached 240,000, Mar. 19, 2007
[5] RFA, 2,450 Persons Transferred to Work in Mainland Last Year alone, Jan. 14, 2007 and RFA, Uyghur Girls Transferred to Mainland China, Jan. 17, 2007.
[6] RFA, Last Year Female Labor Force Transfer from Kashgar Reached 240,000, Mar. 19, 2007.
[7] Id.
[8] Xinjiang Daily, Uyghur Girls Arrived in Our Workshops, Apr. 03, 2007.
[9] RFA, What are the Transferred Uyghur Youth Going through in Mainland, Apr. 03, 2007.
[10] RFA, 500 Uyghur Girls Transferred to Chinese Provinces, Mar. 30, 2007.
[11] Id.
[12] Id.
[13] RFA, Uyghur Girls Transferred to Mainland China, Jan. 17, 2007
[14] RFA, Revealed Secrets: Real Stories of Uyghur Girls Forced to go to Chinese Provinces–II, Jun. 21, 2007.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] RFA, Revealed Secrets: Real Stories of Uyghur Girls Forced to go to Chinese provinces–I, Jun. 20, 2007
[18] Id.
[19] Id.
[20] RFA, Revealed Secrets: Real Stories of Uyghur Girls Forced to go to Chinese provinces–II, Jun. 21, 2007
[21] Id.
[22] RFA, A Uyghur 'Worker ' Girl's Story who was Forced to Flee from China, Jun. 28, 2007.
[23] 喀什地区经济信息中心, 新疆喀什在津务工领队干部座谈会上的发言(节选), Apr. 17, 2007, at
[24] Id.
[25] RFA, Revealed Secrets: Real Stories of Uyghur Girls Forced to go to Chinese provinces – II, Jun. 21, 2007.
[26] Id.
[27] RFA, A Uyghur 'Worker ' Girl's Story who was Forced to Flee from China, Jun. 28, 2007.
[28] Id.
[29] Id.
[30] RFA, Revealed Secrets: Real Stories of Uyghur Girls Forced to go to Chinese provinces – II, Jun. 21, 2007.
[31] Id.
[32] Id.

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19 June 2008
Editor-in-chief: Willy Fautré

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