URUMQI – Uighur Muslims wishing to be lawyers will have to sign a pledge not to let any of their families grow beards or don burqas, the move denounced by Uighur Muslims as threatening lawyers’ freedoms.
"Lawyers must commit to guaranteeing that family members and relatives do not wear burqas, veils or participate in illegal religious activities, and that young men do not grow long beards," the Xinjiang judicial affairs department website said in a statement cited by Reuters on Wednesday, November 13.
According to the new regulations, lawyers in Turpan, an oasis city southeast of the regional capital, Urumqi, will have to sign a pledge denouncing extremism and participation in "illegal religious activities.”
This pledge, according to the statement, includes banning their family members from wearing burqas or growing long beards.
As an "important force" for protecting social stability, the statement said that lawyers must take a leading role in combating extremism, adding that 57 lawyers and six law students had signed the pledge so far.
The new move, seen as intensifying Chinese authorities sweeping security crackdown in Xinjiang, followed the attack on October 28 when a car struck and killed two tourists near Tiananmen Square and then went up in flames.
The government has labeled the episode an act of terrorism, accusing Uighur Muslims of plotting the attack.
Uighur Muslims have dismissed China's account of a Tiananmen Square “terrorist attack” as a dubious pretext for repression, amid signs of stepped-up security.
The World Uyghur Congress’s said that they feared those who did not sign the pledge risked losing their license to practice law or would face investigation.
"China's judicial reform forces Uighur lawyers into a choice: safeguard the sanctity of their duty as lawyers and lose their personal freedoms, or violate their professional ethics and support China's suppression of the Uighur people," the group’s spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, said in a statement cited by Reuters on Wednesday, November 13.
Uighur Muslims are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Xinjiang, which activists call East Turkestan, 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 in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
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