China Forces Uighurs to Eat During Ramadan

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像
Why you need to know

Despite ‘guarantees’ in a recent white paper that religious freedoms will be respected, Chinese authorities are cracking down on Uighurs during Ramadan.

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The Chinese government is preventing Uighurs in Xinjiang from practicing religion regardless of the white paper issued ahead of Ramadan, which promised to guarantee their freedom of belief.

To restrict religious activities, the Chinese government has been tightening its policy in Xinjiang, where 60% of people are Muslim and started fasting earlier this month. Besides the detention of residents of the region who encourage religious practices, Muslims have also been forced to eat during Ramadan, a traditional period of fasting for them.

Approximately 20 million people practice Islam across China; half of them live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

On June 2, before the beginning of Ramadan, Chinese officials issued a white paper praising religious freedoms and promised to cause “no stress” on Muslims’ religious practices.

“All citizens’ freedom of belief and religious activities are guaranteed,” the paper said, adding that “No citizens should be discriminated for believing in a certain religion or be forced not to believe in one.”

The paper not only allowed all restaurants to decide their opening hours during Ramadan, but also barred anyone from intervening in the matter.

However, when Ramadan started on June 6, the Chinese government broke its promises.

Dilax Raxit, spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that Chinese officials had prevented all workers, students and women from fasting and praying. Uighurs were also required to sign a document of responsibility, promising they would not practice their religion “illegally.”

“The Chinese government established these policies at the beginning of Ramadan because they regard Uighurs’ religious beliefs as a threat to Beijing authorities,” Dilax Raxit said. He said China was “politicizing” Muslims in Xinjiang.

‘Forced to eat and drink’ campaign

Dilax Raxit also said that the Chinese government has been forcing Uighurs to eat and drink “by all means.” Many governmental organizations held huge events and tea parties, inviting Uighurs to feast.

Officials at Aksu City in Xinjiang told the Radio Free China that schools and parents would be forced to take responsibility if students are found fasting.

In some primary schools, Uighur students were even forced to eat zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings, during Dragon Boat Festival celebrations to demonstrate their “recognition of traditional Chinese culture.” The government can also control these people by observing their reaction to such policies.

Officials in Korla City and the Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County in Xinjiang both announced that all restaurants should continue to serve food to “make sure that all local people can enjoy the services.”

Banning prayer and practices

According to the official website of Korla City, a census will be carried out by the local government and the police to “stabilize” the situation in Xinjiang during Ramadan.

Throughout that period, residents will allegedly be punished if they are caught praying or fasting. Party members, public servants and students are all restricted from praying in mosques. If found doing so, public servants will be fired.

In Urumqi, mosques have been provided with 10,000 renminbi to prevent people from praying. Mosques and restaurants are monitored 24 hours a day. Six police officers and 12 soldiers have been allocated in each region, raiding households in the early morning to check residents’ behavior.

By June 6, 17 people had already been detained for promoting religious activities in Xinjiang.

DNA identification

The Public Safety Bureau in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture announced at the beginning of this month that all traveling documents, such as passports, should include the owner’s DNA, fingerprints, voiceprints and even 3D imaging data.

If the information is incomplete, travelers will not get the permission to travel.

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