BEIJING - A city in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses, as the government battles unrest with a policy that critics said discriminates against Muslims. Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence that the government blames on Islamist militants or separatists.
The rules were intended to help strengthen security in the northwestern city of Karamay through August 20 during an athletics event, the ruling Communist Party-run Karamay Daily said on Monday. In July, authorities in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi banned bus passengers from carrying items ranging from cigarette lighters to yogurt and water, in a bid to prevent violent attacks. While many Uighur women dress in much the same casual style as those elsewhere in China, some have begun to wear the full veil, a garment more common in Pakistan or Afghanistan than in Xinjiang. "Officials in Karamay city are endorsing an openly racist and discriminatory policy aimed at ordinary Uighur people," said Alim Seytoff, the president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association. Hundreds have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past 18 months.