Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Chinese government using passports to secure political ends

By Andrew Jacobs  /  NY Times News Service, BEIJING

“Whenever the subject of a passport is mentioned, it brings me to tears,” Rozi, a student at Minzu University in Beijing, wrote last month. “My passport is still a riddle, a luxury.”

Widely forwarded, the blog posts prompted favorable coverage in one Chinese publication.

However, they also drew unwanted attention from the domestic security agents in Xinjiang, who during six hours of questioning this month suggested she was “politically unqualified” to go abroad because she had used her microblog, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to complain about discrimination against Uighurs.

The inability to travel has driven many Chinese to take desperate measures. In 2011, Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), a poet and author from the southwest city of Chengdu, escaped overland to Vietnam after the authorities rebuffed his passport application more than a dozen times and then threatened him over plans to publish a book overseas. He now lives in exile in Germany.

Wuer Kaixi, who was No. 2 on the government’s most wanted list after he organized student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, has spent the last several years trying to get himself arrested by the Chinese authorities in an attempt to return home to see his aging parents. Kaixi, who lives in Taiwan, has tried crashing through the gates of the Chinese embassy in Washington and he once flew to Chinese-administered Macau and offered himself up to the police. He was promptly put back on a plane and sent home.

“It is unbearable to contemplate the idea that I may never see them again,” he wrote last year of his parents, who have also been barred from leaving China. “This is barbaric and cruel behavior by the Chinese government.”

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