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No Exit: China Uses Passports as Political Cudgel

posted Mar 5, 2013, 6:05 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
The New York Times reports that, in China, people who speak out against the government as well as members of minority groups are often barred from leaving or re-entering.

These days, members of China’s ethnic Han majority can generally obtain a passport in 15 days.

But the rules are more arduous for Tibetans and Uighurs, who must win approvals from several layers of bureaucracy — including provincial authorities; the applicant’s hometown public security bureau; and for students, university administrators. Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer who has tried and failed to get a passport since 2005, says the denials are driven by fears that once abroad, minorities will speak out about China’s repressive ethnic policies or link up with exile groups.

“For the Han, getting a passport is as easy as buying a bus ticket,” she said. “But for Tibetans it’s harder than climbing to the sky.”

Since last April, the authorities have been confiscating passports from Tibetans lucky enough to have them in the first place. According to documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the police in Tibet are also required to interrogate returnees and determine whether they have broken a signed pledge not to engage in activities that “harm state security and interests” while outside the country.

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