BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will require identification from passengers buying long-distance bus tickets in far-western Xinjiang, state media said on Wednesday, as police seek to monitor travel in a region beset by violence.
Authorities, nervous about unrest in the region which is home to the Muslim Uighur minority group, have already introduced airline-like restrictions for city buses in the capital Urumqi - banning passengers from carrying onboard cigarette lighters, water and yogurt.
Beginning in September, passengers must present official identification to buy tickets at 119 bus stations in Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a public security announcement. "Passengers' ID and bus information will be printed on the tickets and also be uploaded to local police authorities," Xinhua said, adding that tickets would be checked for matching information.
China requires real-name registration for buying train tickets around the country, but rules for long-distance buses, widely used as a form of cheap transport, typically have been more relaxed.
The government has blamed a string of recent attacks in Xinjiang on Islamist militants and separatists it says are bent on establishing an independent state called East Turkestan.
Rights advocates say heavy-handed policies there, including restrictions on Islam and the Uighur people's culture and language, have contributed to unrest.
The Xinjiang city of Karamay has temporarily banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses, a policy critics have said openly discriminates against Uighurs.
Hundreds have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year and a half, but tight security makes it almost impossible for journalists to make independent assessments of the violence.
About 100 people were killed when knife-wielding attackers staged assaults in two towns in the region's south in late July, state media said, including 59 "terrorists" shot dead by police. A suicide bombing killed 39 people at a market in Urumqi in May.