Chinese authorities have imposed curbs on religious activities during the ongoing holy month of Ramzan including a ban on fasting in the restive northwestern region Xinjiang.
According to notices in Chinese put up on government websites, members of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) in Xinjiang have been directed to restrict fasting and visits to the mosque by members of the ethnic minority Uighurs, who form the majority community in the restive region.
Xinjiang is home to around nine million Uighurs, a Turkic speaking, largely Muslim ethnic minority, many of whom accuse China’s leaders of religious and political persecution.
Reports quoted the translated directive from the government as saying that CPC members should actively encourage people to eat well during the month.
A statement from Zonglang township in Xinjiang’s Kashgar district said that “the county committee has issued comprehensive policies on maintaining social stability during the Ramadan period. It is forbidden for Communist Party cadres, civil officials (including those who have retired) and students to participate in Ramadan religious activities.”
Agency reports said the statement, posted on the Xinjiang government website, urged party leaders to bring “gifts” of food to local village leaders to ensure that they were eating during Ramadan.
Similar orders on curbing Ramadan activities were posted on other local government websites, with the educational bureau of Wensu county urging schools to ensure that students do not enter mosques during Ramadan, reports said.
The holy month began in Xinjiang on July 20. The orders to curb religious activities were sent out across the region at different times, some before the start of Ramadan and some afterwards.
“By banning fasting during Ramadan, China is using administrative methods to force the Uighur people to eat in an effort to break the fasting,” Dilshat Rexit, a spokesperson for a Uighur rights group based abroad, told AFP.
The region has seen sporadic violence in the recent past. Nearly 200 people were killed in July 2009 as riots erupted between the majority Han Chinese and the minority Uighurs in the capital city of Urumqi.
In June, a police raid on a building where children and teenagers were taught Islamic texts in the restive Xinjiang region in western China on Wednesday left 17 persons including 12 children injured after inmates set off explosives to thwart the raid.