XINJIANG – Intensifying massive crackdown on Uighurs in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, a Chinese government local governor is clamping down on Muslims’ religious activities ranging from mandatory daily prayers to traditional burial rites.
“Religious restrictions have been tightened,” a Uyghur teacher told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“It is especially since vice governor Haki was appointed to oversee religious affairs that these kind of restrictions were doubled.”
Taking office two years ago in Ghulja County in Xinjiang’s Ili autonomous prefecture, Vice governor Haki has been cracking down on religious activities.
Prompting a “Cultural Revolution-style self-criticism,” he has imposed severe restrictions on daily prayers, Qur’an recitation and religious activities.
“Activities like reciting the Qur’an and celebrating the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday—which were normally held at home without any problems—are restricted now,” the teacher said.
“Nowadays, not only do you have to have permission from the government to hold such kinds of events, but also you have to hold them in the mosques.”
Even more, the teacher said that special officials had been appointed to make a blacklist of men under the age of 50 who grow beards, women who wear face-veil and youths known to have attended mosque before the age of 18.
“There are now police who stand in front of mosques, checking people who enter for Friday prayers,” the teacher said.
Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million, in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, was the scene of deadly violence in July 2009 when the mainly Muslim Uighur minority vented resentment over Chinese restrictions in the region.
In the following days, mobs of angry Han took to the streets looking for revenge in the worst ethnic violence that China had seen in decades.
The unrest left nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured, according to government figures. But Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, say the toll was much higher and mainly from their community.
China’s authorities have convicted about 200 people, mostly Uighurs, over the riots and sentenced 26 of them to death.
Beijing’s brutal anti-Muslim government has also targeted death rituals performed by the family of the deceased.
In a recent incident, plainclothes officers took photos of a group of children at a mosque with their parents as part of prayer ceremonies for a recently-deceased relative.
“The event, which was held on Feb. 7 at a mosque, was a prayer event for the deceased during the 40 days following his passing,” the woman told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“Normally, such kinds of events are held at home with relatives and neighbors, and of course the children were included.”
As the event was attended by some children, the police sent the photos to Haki’s attention who stormed the mosque immediately.
“The county’s vice governor Haki stormed into the mosque before the event was even over and started a self-criticism meeting,” she said.
“He started pointing fingers even at elders and criticized them harshly, which is unimaginable [in our culture]. Only people such as Haki would employ these kinds of unconventional measures.”
Beijing has been facing criticism for its brutal anti-Muslim policies.
Last July, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a report urging Chinese authorities to end restrictions imposed on Uighur Muslims.
According to the US committee, the religious freedom abuses against Muslims includes prohibiting teachers, professors, university students, and other government employees from observing Ramadan fasting, engaging in daily prayers, distributing religious materials, and wearing headscarf.
Minors under the age of 18 continue to be denied access to some mosques and religious education.
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