Chinese Police Shoot Dead a Muslim Uyghur Man Amid Ramadan Crackdown

Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers at a mosque in Beijing, Nov 1, 2013

Railway police in the Shaanxi provincial capital Xi'an "shot down a man on Wednesday at a train station who had charged into a ticket line with a brick," according to a post on the official Weibo account of the Xi'an Railway Police.

According to the statement, the man had been spotted "rushing a line of people" in the ticket hall early in the morning.

"The man was shot and injured after he ignored repeated police warnings. He died in spite of emergency treatment," the statement said.

An earlier post said that the man was a Uyghur but the reference to his ethnicity was later deleted, according to the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Photos posted online showed the pixelated image of a man lying on the ground with several police officers standing around him.

The statement had earlier said the man was a member of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group from the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, but references to his ethnicity were later removed from the post.

'Looked like a Uyghur'

An eyewitness told RFA that the man appeared to be a Uyghur.

"He was from Xinjiang, and he went to attack the crowd with a brick," the eyewitness said. "He was shot dead with a single bullet by police."

"Apart from that, I don't know the details," he said.

A source inside the Xi'an police department told RFA that the city's chief of police had rushed to the scene in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

"He took a brick and went as if to hurt people standing in the ticket hall of the station," the source said.

"All the city police chiefs are here, including the head of the police department himself."

He said the authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

"The anti-terrorism squad is here, too," the source said. "They have set up a special investigative team, I think."

Ban on fasting

The shooting comes as millions of Uyghurs begin observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this week under increasing official pressure not to fast.

Uyghur officials and other state employees like teachers have been banned from fasting, and it is against the law for children under 18 to take part in religious activities.

Restaurants in the region are typically required to stay open all day, even if the owners are Muslim, and Uyghur children and young people are often required to attend free lunches in the region's schools and universities to avoid the dawn-to-dusk fast traditionally observed during Ramadan.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress exile group, said tensions are also running high ahead of the sixth anniversary of bloody ethnic riots in Xinjiang's region capital Urumqi that left at least 200 people dead and sparked a regionwide security crackdown that has never been lifted.

"We are getting close to Ramadan and to the anniversary of ... the July 5 incident [in Urumqi], so the Chinese government is very worried that Uyghur students will start a popular protest in universities and colleges," Dilxat Raxit told RFA.

"They have held a special meeting focusing on special controls and surveillance measures targeting Uyghurs," he said.

"They have also tightened surveillance at colleges and universities," he said.

'Strike hard' campaign

The shooting comes amid an ongoing "strike hard" campaign in Xinjiang in the name of fighting separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism, following a string of violent incidents that have left hundreds dead in recent years.

Turkic-speaking minority Uyghurs have complained about pervasive ethnic discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression by Chinese authorities.

Last October, authorities tightened rules forbidding anyone under the age of 18 from following a religion, targeting families whose children studied the Quran or fasted during Ramadan with hefty fines.

Authorities in the Hotan, Kashgar, and Aksu prefectures of Xinjiang have forced Uyghur parents to sign pledges promising not to allow their children to participate in religious activities, the World Uyghur Congress has said.

Reported by Ka Pa and Wei Ling for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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