XINJIANG – Chinese authorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have forced Muslim residents of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture to drink alcohol and eat pork during the Lunar New Year holiday, Radio Free Asia reported.
“Kazakh people in Xinjiang have never [eaten pork],” ethnic Kazakh resident of Altay’s Qinggil (in Chinese, Qinghe) county told RFA.
“Starting last year, some people have been forced to eat pork so they can celebrate a festival belonging to the Han Chinese.”
Residents told RFA that Chinese officials had invited them to celebratory dinners marking the Lunar New Year at which pork was served, then threatened to send them to a “re-education” camp if they refused to take part.
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.
According to a Kazakh woman, who gave her first name as Kesay, said Muslims don’t usually celebrate Spring Festival, another term for the Lunar New Year, which has roots in polytheistic folk religion, which includes Buddhist iconography.
“Kazakhs don’t celebrate Spring Festival,” she said. “Our main festivals are `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha. Spring Festival is for Han Chinese and people who believe in Buddhism.”
“Muslims like us, the Uyghurs, the Hui, and the Kazakhs, don’t do that,” Kesay said. “But people have been sticking up New Year poetic couplets at the doors of Uyghur and Kazakh households, and giving them pork.”
“If we won’t put up the couplets or hang lanterns, they say we are two-faced, and they send us to re-education camps,” she said, adding that officials had begun delivering pork to around 80 percent of Kazakh households in Savan (in Chinese, Shawan) county, since the end of 2018.
Dilxat Raxit, the spokesman for the exile group World Uyghur Congress, said his organization has also received similar reports regarding Uyghur households.
“According to our information, the Chinese government is stepping up its campaign to assimilate Uyghurs into Han Chinese culture,” he said. “They are forcing Uyghurs to celebrate Lunar New Year, to put up decorative couplets.”
He said many of the officials are with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s “stability maintenance” regime of domestic surveillance and control.
“Stability maintenance officials are handing out gifts to local people that are related to pigs because 2019 is the Year of the Pig,” he said.
“They are also forcing Uyghurs to drink alcohol, to show that they don’t subscribe to ‘extreme religious beliefs’ and don’t disrespect traditional Chinese culture.”
Many refer to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region — home to many ethnic minorities, including the Turkic Uyghur people — as East Turkestan.
In its 117-page report, “‘Eradicating Ideological Viruses’: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims,” Human Rights Watch presents new evidence of the Chinese government’s mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life.
Chinese authorities impose restrictions on Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, especially during Ramadan.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of a 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.
In December 2015, China passed its controversial anti-terror law, which according to Human Rights Watch gave government agencies “enormous discretionary powers.”
The government’s April 2017 regulations to “prevent extremism” drew international condemnation, with critics saying they violated basic human rights and religious freedom.