"Pair Up and Become Family" may sound like a wholesome phrase, but it’s actually the name of another repressive policy that discriminates against Uighurs, the Muslim minority in China. The program implemented in Xinjiang forces Uighur women to host male Chinese officials in their homes and sleep with them in the same bed, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
Most of the officials are part of the Han ethnic group that comprises a majority of the country’s population. They are called “relatives” and are mostly assigned to the homes of Uighur women whose husbands are detained in re-education camps where they are forced to renounce their faith. During these stays — which last for up to six days — the officials monitor the political and religious views of the Uighur women and their families, and reportedly try to indoctrinate them.
In the past two years, approximately 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been placed in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. VICE undercover investigations from June found that the Chinese government uses surveillance technology to spy on the minority group. The police have also taken Uighur men away in the middle of the night, and separated children from their families to be raised by the state.
The “Pair Up and Become Family” program is one of many others used in recent years to “re-educate” Uighurs in Xinjiang, a region China claims is threatened by Islamist militant attacks.
A cadre from the ruling Communist Party in Kashgar, Xinjiang, who wished to stay anonymous, told RFA that between 70 and 80 families in his township were put through the program.
“The ‘relatives’ come to visit us here every two months … they stay with their paired relatives day and night,” he said.
“They help [the families] with their ideology, bringing new ideas. They talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another.”
During their stays, the officials collect information about the families they are with, including whether their house is registered and if they are migrants from other regions. They also have to report any “problems” or “unusual situations,” including if they notice uncleanliness, ideological extremism, and alcoholism. They also spread the values of the Communist state.
If they don’t have a bed, the family members and the officials sleep together on sleeping platforms.
The cadre said that the families are open to hosting the officials and welcome them. Another official told RFA that no woman has complained about sleeping next to the officials, and that the practice was encouraged to “promote ethnic unity.”
However, reports suggest that if the women refuse to take part in the program, they may face restrictions or be sent to the detention camps. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said that there is no evidence that shows families can refuse to partake in the program.
According to HRW, the program commenced in 2016 and saw 110,000 officials visit families every two months. In December 2017, more than 1 million officials from government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions were mobilised, and by 2018, were spending at least five days every two months with the families.