China Enters Ramadan with Round-The-Clock Surveillance of Mosques, Uyghurs

Urumqi, 02 Ramadan 1437/07 June 2016 (MINA) – Authorities in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang region have detained 17 people for encouraging the region’s mostly Muslim Uyghurs to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, overseas rights groups said on Monday.

Five Uyghurs were taken away by plainclothes police in Qaghiliq county (in Chinese, Yecheng county) near the Silk Road city of Kasghar on Friday, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) said as Ramadan began.

And police in Kuqa county, Aksu (Akesu) prefecture, detained 12 people at the gates of a major mosque in the county town, taking them away in minivans, WUC spokesman Dilxat Raxit told RFA’s Mandarin Service.

“According to our sources, the police said they were spreading propaganda at the gates of the mosque about observing Ramadan,” he said.

Beijing has implemented strict rules in Xinjiang forbidding anyone under the age of 18 from following a religion, levying hefty fines against families whose children study the Quran or fast during Ramadan.

Parents and guardians of Uyghur children and teens are frequently pressured by local officials into signing pledges promising not to allow them to take part in any religious activity.

Muslim members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party are forbidden to openly follow their religion, while state-run organizations are routinely ordered to encourage everyone to eat during daylight hours, sources in the region have told RFA.

“The Chinese government has forbidden Uyghurs from leaving their places of residence during Ramadan, and if they do leave, they have to give the authorities details of their itinerary or destination,” Raxit said.


Payouts to mosques

In the regional capital Urumqi, which saw 200 people die in ethnic violence in 2009, officials are handing out payouts to the city’s mosques in return for their cooperation with security personnel during Ramadan.

“They want the mosque staff to assist the security personnel who are installed in the mosques 24 hours a day to carry out surveillance,” Raxit said on Monday.

“They want to confirm the identities of every person who comes to pray at the mosque.”

The texts of any sermons preached during Ramadan must also be passed by Beijing’s censors before they can be delivered, Raxit said.

In Ili (Yili) prefecture in the north of Xinjiang, officials were being ordered to read guidelines issued to Communist Party members on party discipline and on the punishments meted out to officials who fast, before signing pledges not to observe Ramadan, he said.

Muslim officials caught observing the fast face expulsion from their jobs and from the party, according to the regulations.

Meanwhile, Uyghur-run restaurants are forbidden to shut their doors during fasting hours, according to a government directive.

A Han Chinese resident of Xinjiang surnamed Zhang said some will seek to evade the policy, however.

“I asked some Uyghurs about this, and they said they will use indirect methods, such as saying that there were no customers … or they will prepare all of the food in advance,” Zhang said. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)