CAIRO – In a fresh crackdown on religious freedoms, Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned people, especially Uighur Muslims, to shun practice of Islam and to stick to the country’s declared notions of “Marxist Atheism”.
President Xi warned Chinese citizens “not to confuse themselves with non-CCP approved tendencies” and to “never find their values and beliefs in this religion or any religion,” Indian Press reported on Thursday, May 26.
The remarks were made at the Second National Work Conference on Religion that is being widely reported by state media led by China Central TV.
He also warned that the country would resist overseas infiltration through religious means and to guard against ideological infringement by “Islamic extremists.”
Other senior Communist Party Officials who spoke on this occasion highlighted the dangers that Islam is assuming in some parts of China, making the nation vulnerable to extremist infiltration.
Communist Party Officials strongly backed President Xi’s statements and cautioned citizens to be vigilant against Islamic tendencies like Halal products, making it clear that Halal products will remain banned in China as these “promote religious segregation.“
China has already declared 2016 as the “Year of Ethnic Unity and Progress”, a move aimed squarely at ridding the nation of Islamic influences.
According to official data, China has 23 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces.
Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China — up to 7.5 percent of the population.
Roughly half of Muslims live in Xinjiang, an oil-rich expanse of Central Asia where a cycle of violence and government repression has alarmed human rights advocates and unnerved Beijing over worries about the spread of extremism.
Chinese authorities impose restrictions on Uighur Muslim 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 Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur 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 Uyghur separatists, and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.