Twenty-one-year-old Atikem Ruzi, a junior student at Minzu University of China, found out last week she was denied a passport that she wanted so she could study abroad.
The Uyghur woman says an official at the Beijing Exit-Entry Administration Department would not say why, beyond explaining that the "Xinjiang side" did not give their approval.
When Ruzi complained about the decision on Sina Weibo, her teachers called her in and urged her to post less.
When the Global Times asked Exit-Entry Administration Department spokesman Lin Song to comment on the case, he refused to comment on the specifics, but added, "Different areas might have a few differences on the requirements." He referred further questions to the police, who also refused to comment.
Ruzi is not the only member of an ethnic group to find herself in this situation. The Passport Law of China requires citizens to be issued passports within 15 days. But different standards are enforced between Han and other ethnic groups, according to Turgunjun Tursun, a deputy researcher in the Sociology Department at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region.
"For instance, minorities need to go to the police station for an assessment. Only if the assessment is passed can they apply for passport," said Turgunjun. "In addition, more documents are needed by members of ethnic groups, like an invitation letter from friends in the foreign country."
Turgunjun said that the adoption of different standards is inappropriate. "We should treat people according to their deeds rather than their ethnicity," he said.
According to an official who did not give his name from the Exit-Entry Administration Department in Hami, Xinjiang, those belonging to ethnic groups who have a Beijing household registration permit but who have not stayed there for 10 years need proof from their original hometowns that they are eligible for a passport. "The police in the place of the original household registration will investigate, including the criminal record and the date of transferring the household registration," the official said.
But he stressed that this is not discrimination against a minority group, but the regulations.
Following the requirement of the police, passport applications in northwest parts of the country, including Xinjiang, Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, are processed according to whether the applicant has reason to go abroad, not simply the applicant's demand, the official added.
The Passport Law of China says that applicants considered a potential danger to national security should not be given passports.
Ruzi said she felt bad and disappointed when she found out her passport application had been rejected. She believes the reason her application was turned down dates back to two online posts she made during her summer vacation in 2011 that were critical of government policies. She said police in Xinjiang questioned her about the posts, which said in part, "There is nothing to believe, nothing to rely on, no way to go - pushed to the road of ruin."
But she has not given up hope on studying overseas, and believes officials at the Beijing Exit-Entry Administration Department will yet sort out the problems with her application and come through with a passport.
"A female official said, 'Honestly speaking young girl, when you Xinjiang people apply for passports, our Beijing side cannot make a decision. We will contact the police bureau to contact the Xinjiang side to see whether their deeds are legal or illegal, and we will give you a final answer.'"
Ruzi says the official told her this on December 13, 26 days after she first applied for the passport. She is still waiting for the result.