The restriction on fasting during the Ramadan holiday month has decreased in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in recent years, but people continue to refrain, according to local authorities, showing lingering fear of being labeled “extreme” and marked for detention.
For many years, Uighurs and other Turkish Muslims in XUAR were banned from the full implementation of Ramadan due to persecution of religion by the Chinese government and restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, among many the case has banned civil servants, students and teachers from vegetarianism during the holiday month.
In certain areas of the region, access to mosques is more tightly controlled and restaurants are ordered to open, while retirees in Uyghur are often forced to make a pre-commitment. month of Ramadan that they will not fast or pray to set an example for the wider community and are responsible for ensuring others are also restrained.
During the month of Ramadan from 23 April to 23 May last year, RFA learned that the government in Kashgar District (Kashi) Makit (Maigaiti) —a district with about 83% of the population is Uyghur – informed informing residents that they are required to move in any friends or relatives who have joined the vegetarian diet.
Residents were informed that they could face punishment for fasting, including being sent to one of XUAR’s vast detention centers, where the government is believed to have held 1.8 million people. Uyghur and other Muslim minorities as of April 2017.
The RFA also spoke with an official in Kashgar’s Peyziwat (Jiashi) district at the time, who said his town was required to attend the daily morning flag salutation, as well as key studies in the evening, as part of an effort to stop people from fasting because It is the only time of day when they are allowed to eat, according to Islamic tradition.
While investigating the situation in the region during the Ramadan holiday month this year, observed from April 12 to May 12, the RFA spoke with representatives of government offices, including religious issues. teachers and the United Front office – many of them, as in previous years, refused to answer related questions in order to be limited.
However, RFA recently contacted a policeman in the town of Toqquzaq (Tuokezhake), in Kashgar’s Kona Sheher (Shufu) district, who said that fasting restrictions had “loosened” in the district. sector since 2020, after being banned for three years in a row.
‘Fast or not free’
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, he said meetings about Ramadan “are always held” at his police station, with authorities informing the public “stay away from the owner. the meaning of religious extremism ”and“ don’t believe the rumors, but trust the party and government. “
But between the propaganda work, he said, residents were told that “people can fast if they want to,” while those who don’t want “have no religious responsibility to do so,” suggesting that they has been the choice.
“[They say] It is a good thing for people to practice religion in a legal place that is allowed to do religious activity, and we have never restricted anything, ”he said, seemingly referring to the main places of worship. covered permissible.
“They tell people that they can fast if they want it to be Ramadan, that they can fast freely or not, and that they can practice religion at religious activities and gatherings. . “
According to the police officer, the restrictions for Ramadan were the toughest in three consecutive years starting in 2017, before the influence of the “religious extremists” had spread to such an extent that the restaurants above. his district was completely closed for the holiday month, and “nearly 100 percent of the people fasted,” posing “a major threat to national security. “
But in spite of his claim that the restrictions were eased starting in 2020, the same police officer noted that he has yet to see anyone vegetarian in his area since then, showing that the Uyghurs continue to live in an environment of fear.
“I didn’t feel it [people are fasting] At all… I haven’t met someone I think is fasting, ”he said.
“Many people have become very disgusted with religious extremism … and they worry about being seen and viewed as an extremist.”
‘There is no such thing as a fast
A resident of Kashgar’s neighboring Yengisheher (Shule) district seems to confirm that the Uyghurs have not dared to fast this year for fear of attracting the attention of the authorities, adding that he and his relatives were unaware. When will Ramadan be celebrated in 2021.
“Oh, no – it’s not like that now,” said an anonymous resident, when asked if he would become a vegetarian during Ramadan.
“I don’t know when Ramadan starts or when it ends. I’m going to work early in the morning so I don’t know at all, OK? “
Observers note that when Chinese authorities find themselves under heavy pressure from the global community for the abuses in XUAR, they often try to avoid criticism by temporarily lifting them. and loosen some regional restrictions. Such measures were used to establish an artificial stage – especially before international observers and investigators arrived at XUAR.
While it may be the case that the authorities intend to create such an environment in Toqquzaq and elsewhere in the region, reports suggest that residents have become frightened of being labeled as a so extreme they may not be able to do so in the end.
Shohret Hoshur’s Report to RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.