BEIJING (IINA) — A leading international human rights group has urged Chinese authorities to end its restriction on issuing passports for religious minorities that have been suffering a discriminatory double-tiered passport system for years, OnIslam reported.
“Chinese authorities should move swiftly to dismantle this blatantly discriminatory passport system,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in statement.
“The restrictions also violate freedom of belief by denying or limiting religious minorities’ ability to participate in pilgrimages outside China.”
According to a HRW report, the two-track system for issuing passports for religious minorities like Muslims and Tibetans requires these groups to provide far more extensive documentation than other citizens in the country.
Titled, “One Passport, Two Systems: China’s Restrictions on Foreign Travel by Tibetans and Others,” the 53-page-report compared the fast a fast-track system is available for ethnic Chinese majority to the slow-track system which is allowed for those in most ethnic and religious minority areas.
Preventing travel for certain forms of religious study and pilgrimage have been the mean reasons behind passport restriction for minorities since 2001, according to the HRW.
In the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang, at least two Hui autonomous areas have also been denied access to the fast-track system.
On its part, HRW said that China should ensure the criteria and procedures for issuing passports are the “same” for all citizens, immediately implement fast-track processing for minorities, and cease treating attendance at religious events or teachings abroad as unlawful activities.
“Chinese authorities seem to believe that systematically denying Tibetans’ rights to travel brings greater stability to the Tibet Autonomous Region,” Richardson said. “But it’s respect for human rights including equal access to passports that might begin to reduce Tibetans’ distrust of the government.”
Beijing, which enforced a long-held claim to Tibet in 1950, claims a centuries-old sovereignty over the territory it governs as an autonomous region of China.
The HRW report came a few days after Thailand deported dozens of ethnic minority Uighur Muslim back to China, drawing fierce criticism from several countries.