Some local governments in China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang
are stepping up controls on the Islamic faith followed by the Uighur
people ahead of Ramazan, including making officials swear they will not
holy month, which begins this week, is a sensitive time in Xinjiang
following an uptick in deadly attacks blamed by Beijing on Islamist
militants over the past three years in which hundreds have died.
recent days, state media and government websites in Xinjiang have
published stories and official notices demanding that party members,
civil servants, students and teachers in particular do not to observe
Ramazan, something that happened last year too.
Jinghe county near the Kazakh border, food safety officials decided
last week that they would "guide and encourage" halal restaurants to
stay open as normal during Ramazan, the government said on its website.
Those that do stay open would get fewer visits from food safety
inspectors, it added.
Muslims worldwide observe Ramazan, during which many abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.
Other government institutions have given similar instructions.
In Maralbexi county, where 21 died in violent unrest in 2013, party officials had to give verbal as well as written assurances "guaranteeing they have no faith, will not attend religious activities and will lead the way in not fasting over Ramazan", state media said.
Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's
repressive policies in Xinjiang, including restrictions on religious
practices, have provoked unrest, allegations denied by Beijing.
is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramazan approaches. The faith
of the Uighurs has been highly politicised, and the increase in
controls could cause sharp resistance," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled Uighur group, the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement.
Telephone calls to the Xinjiang government's spokesman seeking comment were not answered.
government there has always denied trying to curb fasting, though
officials and people younger than 18 are banned from participating in
On Sunday, Xinjiang's Communist Party chief, Zhang Chunxian, warned that the region's stability faced "sustained pressure" from religious extremists.
Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but it maintains
a tight grip on religious activities and allows only officially
recognised religious institutions to operate.
has around 20 million Muslims spread throughout the country, only a
portion of which are Uighur, a Turkic-language speaking group that calls
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