Xinjiang province, China
Xinjiang province, China

Chinese authorities have been confiscating passports of residents of northwest Xinjiang province, claiming the measure serves to combat terrorism.

Their confiscated passports will be held by police.

"Anyone who needs the passport must apply to the police station," a police official told the Global Times, a state-funded newspaper, on Thursday. But he assured residents that people without criminal backgrounds would not be affected and would be able to easily get their passports back should they need to travel.

Anyone with criminal or "suspicious" records, however, may not be able to go abroad, the Global Times reported.

Human Rights Watch condemned the new policy in a statement, claiming the government had no credible threat on which to base it.

Many of the Muslim minority in Xinjiang say they face discrimination. New policies aside, getting a passport is more difficult in Xinjiang than in other parts of China, given Beijing's anti-terrorism campaign there.

Xinjiang has a large Muslim population. The region borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and northwestern India and is seen as a front in China's battle against terrorism and religious extremism.