A Munich-based rights group has termed “ridiculous” the six-year prison term given to man in northwest China’s restive Xinjiang province for allegedly growing a beard and provoking disturbance.
A Chinese daily had reported on Sunday that the court dispatched the unidentified Uyghur – the Muslim minority community in the region – to jail for six years and his wife to two years in jail for allegedly wearing a veil and a burqa.
The verdict was delivered by a court in the ancient Kashgar in the remote southern part of the vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The China Youth Daily, quoted by agencies, said that the man had been growing a beard since 2010 and had been warned not to do so.
Authorities in XUAR have been cracking down on men and women sporting beards and wearing veils, saying the traditions were a sign of extremism.
The region has seen frequent bouts of violence in which the members of the Uyghur community – who complain of social and political discrimination – have clashed with the authorities.
According to AFP, the authorities are also carrying out a campaign called “Project Beauty” where women are encouraged not wear veils.
But Dilxat Raxit, spokesperson of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) told HT that the court’s decision was “unacceptable and ridiculous”.
In a statement emailed to HT, Raxit said it was an example of China’s “hostile attitude” against the political beliefs and traditional ways of life of the Uyghur community.
Calling the sentence “political persecution”, he said this would have been unacceptable in any other country.
The WUC spokesperson added that the government was using the “judiciary to coerce the Uyghur community to give up their traditional way of life”.
He added that such kind of policies would “only lead people to take to resistance to defend their dignity”.
Violence is on the rise in the region and international rights groups say the government is tightly restricting the flow of information coming from the region.