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New Kashgar Dress-Code Requires “All-Chinese” Look

February 23 | 2 Comments

A new dress code restricts the growth of a Uyghur beard for all government workers in Kashgar, a Silk Road town in China’s largest province of China.  The people it affects the most are the Uyghurs, and the question everybody is asking is: Is this fair?

I used to work at a summer sports camp years ago named Kanakuk that required strict dress code for its employees, a code which they referred to as the “All-American Look”.  Clean shaven, managed hair, no jewelry for men…you get the picture.  Now I know that there are plenty of people who would find that discriminating, however I was aware of their requirements when I sought employment and I was perfectly content complying.  It was just part of the job.

I thought about that camp today while reading the news.  An article on RFA highlights a new point of contention in the always restless (although not necessarily dangerous) region of Kashgar.  Here are the hairy details (pun…intended):

Authorities in China’s westernmost city of Kashgar are stepping up pressure on government employees to go clean-shaven, and the city’s large ethnic Uyghur population, whose adult males overwhelmingly sport moustaches, aren’t happy about it, residents say.

Say Goodbye to the Uyghur Beard

In other words, the Kashgar government has instituted a strict “All-Chinese Look” in an area where minorities are actually the majority.  Not everybody has to shave, mind you, just the state employees.  It might be good to note that Chinese are notorious for being unable to grow good facial hair.

I admit I’m having to take some time to think about this one!  It seems unfair and discriminatory, yet I didn’t blink an eye when it was happening in America.  What’s the difference and do these people have a right to complain?

Here’s my quick take on it all: there are quite a few people who wouldn’t want to be subjected to the dress code enforced by the camp I worked at, but I would venture to guess that most of those people aren’t the types that should be working there anyway.  It sounds unfair, but some people have to go to work in a tie and suit or they get fired.  As long as these requirements are outlined and agreed upon beforehand, what’s the difference?

Along that same train of thought, I have no problem with a city government asking for a specific dress code to be upheld – as long as it is outlined and agreed upon by all parties beforehand.  I can’t make a judgment on whether or not that is the case here, as the person interviewed in the RFA article has a distinctly Uyghur name (“Tohti”), but I do have my doubts.  Controls have obviously been put in place in this area for a while now, and while this could be another one, it could just as easily be a government that wants its employees to look clean shaven.


RFA: Kashgar Uyghurs Pressured to Shave

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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