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A Uyghur woman is shown with her children in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in a file photo, RFE/RL
  • China has introduced ban on “extreme” Islamic names for ethnic Uyghur babies under 16
  • Names of Islamic scholars could be regarded as “promoting terror and evil cults
  • While China blames some Uyghurs for “terrorist” attacks, experts outside China say that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence

China, June 3, 2017: Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have extended a recently introduced ban on “extreme” Islamic names for ethnic Uyghur babies to include anyone up to the age of 16, according to official sources and residents, and the order may soon include Uyghurs of all ages.

According to a recent posting on WeChat by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s Public Security Bureau, Order No. 4425 requires all Uyghur parents to change the names of children under 16 years of age, if they are among those listed in a region-wide ban uncovered by RFA’s Uyghur Service.

In April, official sources told RFA that “overly religious names”—such as Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, and Medina—were banned under the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities,” and that any babies registered with such names would be barred from the “hukou” household registration system that gives access to health care and education.

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A police officer in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture recently confirmed to RFA that his station in Hotan city’s Elchi district was ordered last month to complete name changes of Uyghurs aged 16 and younger by June 1, but said that due to technical issues the deadline may be extended to July 1.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “15 names cannot be used, including Arafat,” and that parents should bring both their own and their children’s household registration papers to the police station to make the change.

“We are changing only the names of minors under 16,” he said.

“The ones 16 and above have not been ordered to change yet, due to the difficulty of changing their ID cards and driver’s licenses, so we do not have any directive on changing their names.”

According to the officer, students who have completed primary school must also change the names on their graduation certificates, meaning they must visit both their local police station and education department.

He acknowledged that the name change process is difficult, as many parents have been the target of a crackdown on what Beijing calls religious extremism in Xinjiang, with authorities conducting regular “strike hard” campaigns including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.

“Basically, the village cadres are assisting the minors to change their names, because some of their parents are either in jail or detention,” he said.

The officer said that many Uyghur parents had given their children “extremist” names when Beijing’s policies in the region were “lenient,” but “at the moment, since they cannot use those names, they are simply changing them.”

“The locals have no objections,” he added.

An official from Hotan prefecture’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county government also told RFA his office had recently received an order to change banned names for Uyghur children.

“There are around seven names and the order specified that the name change should be done for free,” said the official, who also asked to remain unnamed.

“For example, they have to change names like Arafat. My colleague’s son’s name was Arafat and he was made to change it. He is a Xinjiang Medical University student.”

The official did not specify the age of the young man.

A teacher in Hotan city also confirmed the name ban, but said that none of the Uyghur students at her school had “radical” names.

“There are some students named after their grandparents—such as Ayshem, Tohti and Mahmut—and most have more popular names—such as Ilnur and Dilnur—so we didn’t hear much about the name ban here,” she said.

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Judging names

Sources in Hotan had previously detailed to RFA a list of banned names in 2015, but an employee who answered the phone at a police station in the regional capital Urumqi suggested in April that the ban had since been rolled out region-wide.

The employee said at the time that names “with a strong religious flavor, such as Jihad” or those with “connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence]” were no longer allowed.

Other rules on what constituted an “extremist” name seemed arbitrary, at best.

Names of Islamic scholars could be regarded as “promoting terror and evil cults,” Yultuzay—a reference to the star and moon symbol of the Islamic faith—is “pagan,” and Mecca “would be a bit over-the-top,” the employee said, adding that he didn’t think Saddam would be acceptable either.

“Just stick to the party line, and you’ll be fine,” he told RFA.

“[People with banned names] won’t be able to get a household registration, so they will find out from the hukou office when the time comes.”

A second source told RFA at the time that the safest names for Uyghurs are those that are considered more “mainstream” by the Chinese Communist Party, such as Memet.

Invasion of privacy

Dolkun Isa, general secretary of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress exile group, strongly condemned the Chinese government for forcibly changing the names of Uyghur children under the age of 16.

“This demonstrates how far and wide the Chinese government violates the fundamental human rights of the Uyghur people and invades the very privacy of their lives,” he told RFA.

“Clearly, Uyghur parents are being stripped of the right to name their own children.”

Isa noted that in every culture, baby names are carefully selected—often with the input of the extended family—and said Uyghur families should not be denied that right.

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“China should be ashamed of forcing Uyghur parents to change the names of their children under any circumstances,” he said.

While China blames some Uyghurs for “terrorist” attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009. (RFE/RL)


Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

The only constant in life is change itself.

By Devina Kaur

Everything in life is temporary. The only constant in life is change itself. That is a reality that we cannot deny. The beauty of this fact is that it allows us to confront our fears, trust the magic of the moment, and enjoy the precious gift of life. What lasts forever is our true self -- the real you -- the person you were born to be. If you feel stuck, trapped, boring or insecure -- acknowledge yourself, find yourself and who you really are on the inside. Your shiny sexy brilliant self is there. It's been there all along. You just need to unveil it.

It's a very common question to ask: "Who am I?" and it's not an easy question to answer. We might be able to give a definition of ourselves, like professional or student, or that we're introverts or extroverts but this doesn't really represent our true selves. We might also try to describe our best qualities and say that we're kind and smart but again, these qualities only indicate the surface level of who we really are.

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Delhi to get new QR-based driving livenses and registration certificates.

In a step towards digitisation of the system, Delhi Transport Department will soon issue QR based Smart cards for driving licenses (DLs) and registration certificates (RCs).

As per a statement, the new driving licence will have an advanced microchip with features like Quick Response (QR) code and Near Field Communication (NFC). The new RC will have the owner's name printed on the front while the microchip and the QR code would be embedded at the back of the card.

The cards earlier had embedded chips, but chip reader machines were not available in the required quantity with both the Delhi Traffic Police and the Enforcement Wing of the Transport Department. Moreover, chips were designed and implemented by the states concerned, which resulted in difficulties in reading the chip and retrieving information, especially in case of defaulters.

"Now with the QR based smart card, this issue is resolved. This will enable unification in linking and validating one's information to smart cards with Sarathi and Vahan, the two web-based databases of all driving licenses and vehicle registrations," the release added.

The QR is also being implemented nationwide, the QR code reader is easily procurable and will do away with the requirement of any manual intervention altogether. The new cards will also allow two specific materials for their card manufacturing -- PolyVinyl Chloride or PVC, or PolyCarbonate which is slightly more expensive but more durable. (Card Size - 85.6mm x 54.02 mm; Thickness minimum 0.7 mm)

An October 2018 notification of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) had made changes to the Driving License and Registration Certificate. The new Smart card based DL and RC, will have chip based/ QR code based recognition system. At the same time, documents such as driving license or registration certificates in electronic formats on DigiLockers and mParivahan were also made valid in place of physical documents and treated at par with original documents.

The QR code also has an added advantage of acting as a safety feature on the smart card. The department will be able to retain records and penalties of the DL holder for up to 10 years on the VAHAN database as soon as a driver/ owner's Smart card is confiscated. The new DLs will also help the government in maintaining records of differently-abled drivers, any modifications made to the vehicles, emission standards and the person's declaration to donate organs. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Delhi, Driving License, Registration License, Digitisation.