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Chinese leader visits region with Muslim population, draws the line for religion

Senior Communist party leader You Quan speaks of ‘sinicisation’ in northwestern region of Xinjiang.

world Updated: Oct 15, 2018 11:30 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Uyghurs,Xinjiang,Communist Party of China
(China's President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017 .(AFP)

Sinicisation of religion must be upheld to promote ethnic solidarity, a top Communist Party of China (CPC) leader said during a visit to the country’s remote northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to millions of Muslim Uyghurs.

Sinicisation could be broadly defined as increasing the influence of Chinese, or the culture of the majority Han community, on non-Chinese ideas and entities within China.

President Xi Jinping has talked about sinicising religions in China since taking over the CPC leadership in 2012.

The focus has largely been on Islam and fast-spreading Christianity within China.

The leader You Quan said “…sinicisation on religion must be upheld to promote ethnic solidarity and religious harmony” during a visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

You is a member of the CPC central committee secretariat, one of the top decision-making bodies of the party, and he is head of the party’s powerful United Front Work Department.

“The Party’s leadership over religious work must be upheld,” You was quoted by official news agency, Xinhua, as saying, and adding that “the infiltration of religious extremism must be guarded against”.

You visited mosques and scripture schools and talked with government officials, party cadres and people from religious circles

“You also expressed his hope that people in religious circles can inherit and carry forward the fine traditions to love the motherland and their faith, lead religious believers to follow the right faith and abide the law and contribute to the healthy development of Islam,” the report said.

You’s statement comes within days China legalising the controversial re-education camps in Xinjiang as “vocational training institutes”, where inmates influenced by religious extremism will be reeducated and transformed, amid mounting international pressure.

Until last month, Beijing had denied the existence of the camps in the face of mounting criticism that said that the hundreds of thousands of Uyghur men and women had been interned without any legal recourse.

Beijing has repeatedly blamed Islamic separatists for the sporadic unrest between the Uyghurs and the ethnic Han majority, which has led to the deaths of many in the past several years.

Rights activists say the unrest is caused by the government’s repression of religious freedoms and anti-minority policies.

First Published: Oct 15, 2018 11:29 IST