Urumqi and Xinjiang Authorities Increase Oversight of Migrants, Rental Housing

May 27, 2010

Authorities in the far western region of Xinjiang have stepped up monitoring of migrants in the past year, following demonstrations and rioting in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in July 2009. Some of the measures, especially controls over rental units in Urumqi that house migrants, appear to target Uyghurs who have migrated to the city from other parts of Xinjiang. Authorities allege that Uyghur migrants who were involved in events in July had lived in Urumqi in unregulated rental housing. Urumqi authorities passed a formal regulation in April to regulate rental housing. Other recent steps to regulate migrants in Xinjiang appear to apply to all migrants in the region, including migrants to Xinjiang from other parts of China.

The Urumqi municipal People's Congress Standing Committee in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) passed a new regulation on April 23, 2010, that regulates the management of rental housing, in a step one official connected to problems allegedly stemming from the city's large "floating population" of migrants, according to an April 26 Tianshan Net report. Among other stipulations, the regulation requires people renting out housing to register with their neighborhood or village committee within 15 days of signing, modifying, or canceling a rental contract. The committee, in turn, is to conduct an on-the-spot verification and submit the rental files to the local office in charge of rental managements. Where files are "standard" and "conform to conditions" (fuhe tiaojian), authorities will issue rental credentials, according to the regulation. Those renting out housing who do not register will face confiscation of illegal rental earnings and fines of up to five times their monthly rental fees. The regulation will enter into force upon review by the XUAR People's Congress Standing Committee, according to the report. (See also a May 18 Xinhua report.) An official from the Standing Committee's Legal Committee, cited in the report, connected the regulation to the city's migrant population. The official said that migrants' living arrangements increased "difficulties" for social management and said that the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism, along with some criminals, used rental housing as stopovers, influencing social order in the city. The Urumqi People's Congress Standing Committee launched work to legislate on rental housing after demonstrations and rioting in Urumqi in July 2009, according to the report, events that authorities have portrayed as violent criminal activity organized by overseas Uyghur groups and carried out by the "three forces" in the XUAR.

The regulation follows other steps in the past year to regulate rental housing in Urumqi, and some of the steps appear to target Uyghur migrants to the city. Some authorities alleged that migrants involved in events in July had lived in Urumqi in unregulated rental housing. In August, Urumqi authorities launched a "clean-up and reorganize" campaign targeting "disorderly" migration and "chaotic" rental managements, after events in July "exposed bottlenecks" in the management of rentals and migrant populations, according to an August 9, 2009, Xinhua report (via People's Daily). An August 10 article in the South China Morning Post (subscription required) paraphrased an anonymous official as saying the campaign in Urumqi "was implemented because suspects who participated in the July 5 riot were found to have been living in rented houses in Urumqi for years without registering their presence in the city." Notices posted throughout the city stated, "The majority of detained criminal suspects from the [July 5] serious violent incident of beating, smashing, looting, and burning had hid in rentals before the incident. Rentals became their hideout for pursuing terrorist activities," according to the Xinhua report. The Tianshan district government in Urumqi issued an order, effective August 2, requiring all rentals to be registered within a set time period or face "investigation and prosecution," the article reported. In addition, the Urumqi government issued a notice on "rectification" work toward migrants and rentals that called on people renting out housing to apply to register with the local public security office and report tenants who have committed or are suspected of having committed crimes, according to the report. Urumqi authorities bolstered formal controls over rental housing in November by implementing a set of temporary measures (zanxing banfa) on the management of rental housing in the city, as reported in a November 22 Tianshan Net report. The measures included registration requirements and stipulated fines up to 30,000 yuan (US$4,394) for renting rooms deemed inappropriate or non-compliant with standards.

Some districts and neighborhoods in Urumqi reported on implementing the November measures as well as passing additional directives to target rental units that house migrants. The Heijiashan area of Tianshan district in Urumqi reported that landlords were required to present their identification cards, household registration permits, property certificates, and land certificates to register rentals with local authorities in accordance with the November Urumqi-wide measures as well as additional measures implemented in Heijiashan, according to a November 20 article from Urumqi Online (via Xinhua). A November 23 Xinhua article reported that since the Heijiashan management board issued the Heijiashan measures in September, over 900 tenants who "didn't conform to rental terms" had been "advised" to leave. The article described Heijiashan as a high-crime area that has "attracted large numbers of workers and unemployed people from areas such as Kashgar, Hotan, and Yili," localities that have predominantly or otherwise large Uyghur populations. The Shuimogou district government in Urumqi reported tightening oversight of migrants and rental housing in the process of implementing the November Urumqi-wide measures, according to a December 2 Urumqi Online article (via Xinhua). The steps to tighten oversight included gathering data on migrants and "screening out and striking hard" against "itinerant society" and "illegal activities such as concealing the 'three forces' in rental housing."

The rental controls have accompanied official pledges and other steps to monitor migrant communities both in Urumqi and throughout the XUAR, developments that appear directed at both internal migrants within the XUAR and migrants from outside the region. In February, the mayor of Urumqi was paraphrased as saying the city would keep "a closer eye on migrants’ communities" and other groups as part of work to uphold "social stability," according to a February 5, 2010, Xinhua report. In March, the chairperson of the XUAR People’s Congress Standing Committee said the XUAR government would further standardize "management" of and "services" for migrants throughout the XUAR, according to a March 11 Xinhua article. He added that authorities also would strengthen ethnic unity education, noting that migrants to the XUAR from elsewhere in China still were somewhat "deficient" in their "recognition of the importance of ethnic unity," the article reported. In December 2009, the XUAR People's Congress Standing Committee made revisions to the region's Regulation on the Comprehensive Management of Social Order that increase oversight of migrants, placing "management" of and "services" for migrants, along with management of rentals, as one of 12 "main tasks" for social order work (Article 5(7)). (See also Articles 14, 19, 36, and 42 for other references to migrants and rentals, compared to one reference in Article 29 of the previous version of the regulation.)

Recent regulations on social order issued by provincial-level governments elsewhere in China also include attention to migrants and rental housing, consistent with general central government concerns over the issues, but appear to lack provisions as extensive as those in the XUAR regulation. See regulations from the provinces of Zhejiang (Article 12), Hubei (Articles 6(5), 25), Jilin (Articles 5(3), 29), and Shanxi (5(5), 12(3)), and the Tibet Autonomous Region (Articles 4, 12). The measures targeting migrants are part of broader steps in the XUAR to tighten security in the region in the aftermath of the July 2009 demonstrations and rioting.

For more information on conditions in the XUAR, see Section IV―Xinjiang in the CECC 2009 Annual Report.