BEIJING (AFP) - Residents of a border district in China's mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang must now provide DNA samples when applying for passports, according to official local media.
As of June 1, residents of the Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in China's far north-west must give police DNA samples, fingerprints, voiceprints and a "three-dimensional image" in order to apply for certain travel documents, the official Yili Daily said, citing the local public security bureau.
Many members of the mostly Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang complain of discrimination - including denials of passport applications - as well as controls on their culture and religion.
The new policy - which came into effect just before the holy month of Ramadan starting Monday (June 6) - concerns applications for and renewals of passports, entry permits to Taiwan, and two-way permits to Hong Kong and Macau, the paper said.
Those who fail to fulfil requirements will be refused documents, it added.
Yili prefecture borders Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is part of Xinjiang, homeland of the more than 10 million-strong Uighur minority.
Regular clashes between Uighurs and state security forces have killed hundreds. Beijing attributes the conflicts to Islamic extremism and foreign influence, while activists blame draconian restrictions on religion and culture.
China tightly controls religious groups despite frequently proclaiming that its citizens have freedom of belief.
Several local governments have posted notices on their websites in the last week ordering restrictions on fasting during Ramadan, with others commanding restaurants to remain open.