XINJIANG — Reviving every year’s nightmare, Chinese authorities have banned Muslim civil servants, students and teachers from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, a restriction that has been imposed on Uighur Muslims in Muslim majority Turkestan district, known as Xinjiang.
The commercial affairs bureau of Turfan City said on its website Monday that “civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities,” Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
The state-run Bozhou Radio and TV university said on its website that it would “enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities.”
“We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast,” it added.
Every year, Chinese authorities have repeatedly imposed restrictions on Uighur Muslim in the northwestern region of Xinjiang every Ramadan.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, falls this year between Sunday, June 29, and July 28.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Under the restrictions, all Muslim employees were forced not to observe the fasting month of Ramadan.
Along with restrictions on teachers, a weather bureau in Qaraqash county in western Xinjiang said on its website that “in accordance with instructions from higher authorities,” it “calls on all current and retired staff not to fast during Ramadan.”
A state office which manages the Tarim River basin posted pictures of its staff wearing traditional Uighur “doppa” caps tucking into a group meal on Saturday.
“Although the meal coincided with the Muslim festival of Ramadan, the cadres who took part expressed a positive attitude and will lead the non-fasting,” it said.
Rejecting Chinese authorities’ claims of preserving the health of state employees by banning fasting, Uighur rights activists said that government restriction would only enflame the conflict.
“China taking these kind of coercive measures, restricting the faith of Uighurs, will create more conflict,” Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said.
Raxit cited local sources which claimed that authorities encouraged Uighurs to eat free meals on Monday, and inspected homes to check if the fast was being observed.
“We call on China to ensure religious freedom for Uighurs and stop political repression of Ramadan,” he added.
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 in the name of counter terrorism.
Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.
Analysts say the policy of transferring Han Chinese to Xinjiang to consolidate Beijing's authority has increased the proportion of Han in the region from five percent in the 1940s to more than 40 percent now.
Beijing views the vast region of Xinjiang as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.
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