Chinese Muslim officials as well as students under the age of 18 in the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang are not allowed to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
In a bid to clamp down on religious extremism, Communist Party leaders posted guidance on numerous government websites restricting Muslim religious activities, including fasting and visiting mosques, the UAE-based newspaper, The National reported.
The Chinese central government has also asked officials in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to discourage the local Muslim population to fast, highlighting in particular the health concerns.
The ban has led to exiled rights group to warn of new violence. The World Uyghur Congress warned that the policy would force “the Uighur people to resist (Chinese rule) even further,” according to The National.
“By banning fasting during Ramadan, China is using administrative methods to force the Uighur people to eat in an effort to break the fasting,” Dilshat Rexit, the group spokesman, said in a statement.
A statement was also released from Zongland township in Xinjiang’s Kashgar district saying “the county’s committee has issued comprehensive policies on maintaining social stability during the Ramadan period.
“It is forbidden for Communist Party cadres, civil officials (including those who have retired) and students to participate in Ramadan religious activities.”
The statement, which was posted on the Xinjiang government website, went on to advised party leaders to bring “gifts” of food to their local village leaders to certify that they were eating during Ramadan, we well statements posted with the educational bureau of Wensu county advising schools to ensure that students eat during the day and do not enter any mosques during the 30 day holy month.
There are around nine million Uighurs, a Turkic speaking and predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region, many of whom are shifting the blame onto China’s leaders, accusing them of religious and political persecution.
In July 2009, Xinjiang was the scene of violent ethnic conflict clashes, when two ethnic groups clashed, resulting in around 200 deaths.