Fasting during the holy month of Ramzan is illegal and against the principles of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the government has said, banning Party members and their families from observing the ritual during the coming month in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
could also affect the health of those observing the tradition. Students should not fast as they could then be "misled by religious extremists", state media said.
Xinjiang, in China's remote northwest has over eight million Turkic-speaking Muslim Uyghurs, one of the largest minorities in the country.
"CPC and League members, civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities. All CPC officials and civil servants should guide family members and friends to act in line with the law and fight against illegal religious activities," a press statement from the Turpan commercial bureau in XUAR quoted by the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said.
The newspaper said on June 28, the Bozhou Radio and TV University in Bole in northwest Xinjiang posted the ban on fasting for CPC members, teachers, and minors.
"We remind everyone that we are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast," it said, adding that teachers would be dismissed if they violated the rule.
The ban on fasting is being pushed by the government as a test for the level of belief in the CPC's atheist ideals. But to many from the Uyghur community, it could be interpreted as curb on their religious rights.
"This will lead to more conflicts if China uses coercive measures to rule and challenge Uyghur beliefs," Dilxat Rexit, Germany-based World Uyghur Congress spokesperson told AP.
State-run newspapers quoted an official, whose name indicated that he could be a Uyghur, from the region, as supporting the ban.
"It is a clearly-stipulated political discipline that CPC members and civil servants cannot profess a religion. This is also an important test of our solid political belief," Ali was quoted as saying by the Ili newspaper, a daily from Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture.
Ali was quoted as saying though fasting during Ramzan is an universal Islamic tradition, it did not apply to CPC members.
Exiled Uyghur groups have criticised the move and described it as an effort to curb the minority groups religious and individual freedoms.
The region has an increasing incidence of violence which the government has attributed to separatists.
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