In spite of assurances by Beijing that ethnic Uyghurs living in China’s mostly Muslim Xinjiang region enjoy full religious freedom, government workers routinely block their right to fast during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, sources in the region say.
On June 2, China issued a white paper lauding “unprecedented” levels of religious freedom in Xinjiang, adding that “no citizen suffers discrimination or unfair treatment for believing in, or not believing in, any religion,” according to official media.
However, several local government departments and middle or high schools in the Uyghur region have posted notices online in recent days ordering restrictions on the Muslim duty to fast during Ramadan, local sources told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“We have forbidden [ruling Chinese Communist] Party members, cadres, civil servants, and village officials, in fact anyone drawing a salary from the state, from praying or fasting during Ramadan,” one local official in Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture said.
“We also do not allow students or anyone under the age of 18 to enter the mosques to pray,” the official—Alim Abdurahman, a “stability worker” in Yengieriq township in Aksu’s Awat (Awati) county—said.
Stability cadres regularly undertake “focused inspections” of individuals and families regarded by local authorities as suspicious, sometimes including other cadres or local officials coming from a religious background, Abdurahman said.
“If we think that someone may be fasting, we will invite them to the village office to ‘drink tea’ with us to see if they are fasting or not,” he said.
“We also use other methods to get information on villagers’ religious activities through our ‘secret eyes and ears’ or through our ‘neighbor watch’ program,” he said.
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Reported and translated by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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