Chinese Authorities Urge 'Close Watch' on Muslim Uyghurs During Ramadan

A mosque in Turpan city in Xinjiang, June 27, 2013.

Authorities in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang region have ordered government workers to closely monitor the daily movements of ethnic Uyghurs during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with at least one county issuing guidelines calling for the intrusive searches of convenience stores, repair shops, and mosques.

While increasing their vigilance around the clock, security personnel may no longer watch television or play table tennis while on duty, and must immediately report “suspicious activities” to their superiors, says the seven-point document issued in Aksu (in Chinese, Akeksu) prefecture’s Shayar (Shaya) county on June 15, two days before the start of the Muslim fasting period.

The document, a copy of which was recently obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service, warns “Ramadan is coming,” and urges village cadres to keep a close watch on politically suspect families, who are required during the fasting month to report in person to authorities each morning and night.

Other regulations instruct government workers to increase their “management” of persons visiting Shayar from other areas, paying particularly close attention to Muslims traveling from other countries—particularly Egypt—and taking fingerprints and hair samples from each.

Shops used to repair farm implements must now be checked to ensure they are not being used to manufacture lethal weapons, the regulations state, while mosques must also be searched, with prayer carpets lifted to check for the presence of “illegal” religious material.

Local authorities must also ensure that shops owned by Uyghurs are well-stocked with alcohol and cigarettes, products discouraged by Islamic custom, and are encouraged to set up workplace “competitions”—including wheat-cutting contests—to promote increased physical activity during the Ramadan fasting period, the document says.

Attacks on observance

Uyghurs living in Xinjiang are meanwhile being subjected to increased interference in their daily lives in an attempt by officials to weaken their participation in religious observances during the fasting month, sources say.

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.

“Not many people are fasting in our county, because we are holding meetings all the time,” a government worker in Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture’s Maralbeshi (Bachu) county told RFA this week.

“The meetings are held mostly in the mornings, and everyone in our county is forced to participate,” she said.

“We are forced to eat and drink,” she added.

“The village office is making us dance,” another resident of the county said, adding,  “They are doing this so that we won’t fast.”

Though agreeing in principle with central government policies and directives, another Maralbeshi resident described as “unspeakable” the methods used by authorities to enforce regulations at the local level.

“When you see it with your own eyes, you will know what I mean,” he said.

“Our rulers can do whatever they want.”

Reported by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi and Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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