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China Expels Nine Uyghur Children From Soccer Talent Program

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China Expels Nine Uyghur Children From Soccer Talent Program
2016-10-14

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-expels-nine-uyghur-children-from-soccer-talent-program-10142016103803.html

Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei have ordered a regional soccer club to expel nine youth trainees of Uyghur ethnicity, citing "counterterrorism" concerns, leaving them potentially with nowhere to go, RFA has learned.

Hengshui Power Football Club received applications for training contracts from promising youngsters from across China following a nationwide recruitment drive, among them nine members of the mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghur group, who won places on the scheme.

Trainees are given the opportunity to enter the club's intensive soccer training program at the same time as completing their education, and the youngsters had already been enrolled in a local school since the start of the academic year.

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The police decree had caused anger and consternation at the club, sources close to the story said, as even the local middle school had offered the boys places to study, and the boys had won the official support of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission in Beijing.

But state security police vetoed the plan. Four of the children have already left Hengshui, but five others remain in their dormitories in the hope of pursuing their dream of becoming soccer stars, the coach said.

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Far worse consequences

The ban has left the children facing potentially far worse consequences, too, as their hukou, or household registrations, were moved to Hebei after they signed the contract with the club and the middle school, the coach said.

This means they are no longer eligible for enrollment in schools back in Xinjiang, as the hukou system is the basis for access to all government services.

The coach said it would be impossible to find similar training opportunities for the children closer to home.

"There are far more opportunities in majority Han Chinese areas of China, including better teaching and more funding," he said. "Soccer is much better developed there than in Xinjiang."

Repeated calls to the Hengshui Power Football Club rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday and Friday.

A second coach close to the story told RFA that the reason for the police decision was linked to China's antiterrorism campaign.

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