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China Bans Ramadan for Uighur Muslims

XINJIANG – Sports activities, red communist films, opened restaurants and banned prayers sum up most of regulations imposed by the Chinese government on Uighur Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

This was a short summary of restrictions imposed in the recently issued notice entitled, “2017 Work Conclusion on the Stability Maintenance of Xinjiang during the Ramadan Period.”

In this notice, the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture’s Bay (Baicheng) county has adopted several measures to “ensure social peace and harmony” during the holy month observed from May 26 to June 24 this year.

The bureau plans to “strictly enforce leading cadres on duty, [have] cadres stand on 24-hour uninterrupted guard, ensure the rotation of guards, check the bags, [and] question and register all visitors,” the notice read.

Temporary evening “security checkpoints” will be set up to “ensure that all vehicles, individuals, and suspicious things are inspected and recorded,” the notice said.

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Separately, students in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county will be gathered on Fridays to “collectively study, watch red [communist propaganda] films, and conduct sports activities” in a way to “enrich their social life during the summer vacation,” the notice said.

Moreover, restaurants were forced to remain open during the day hours in the fasting month.

A Han Chinese official with the Zawa township government in Qaraqash told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that his office had been ordered by county officials to keep restaurants “open as usual … especially during the Ramadan period.”

“If anybody fails to comply with this order, they will be dealt with, and while I’m not sure of the specific punishment, [the restaurants] should be open no matter what,” said the official, who also asked not to be named.

“This order came from the county’s Political Law Committee a couple of days ago. Our leaders stressed the importance of this during a meeting we attended on this issue as well.”

No Fasting

With the majority of Uighur Muslims fearing for their safety, very few reports offered an insight into the restrictions imposed on Muslims in Xinjiang during the holy month of Ramadan.

According to the Zawa official, teachers, public servants and employees in the service sector are “not allowed to fast” during Ramadan.

“It is strictly prohibited and if they are found fasting during this period, they will be dealt with,” he said.

Uighur Muslims working at restaurants around the region confirmed to RFA that their businesses had been ordered to remain open during Ramadan, a directive that has also been issued in previous years in Xinjiang.

“Yes, we were ordered to keep our restaurants open,” said a Uighur staff member at a restaurant in Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture’s Kashgar city.

“Every year it’s the same thing. Everybody has to stay open, even on the weekends.”

Chinese authorities impose restrictions on Uighur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, especially during Ramadan.

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uighur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uighur people.

China regularly vows to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang.

But experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uighur separatists, and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.