Government departments in China’s western region of Xinjiang have banned civil servants and students from fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The Associated Press reports that statements posted over the past several days on websites of schools, government agencies and local party organizations in the region said the ban was aimed at protecting students’ well being and preventing use of schools and government offices to promote religion.
State-run newspapers have been running editorials warning about the health dangers of fasting.
Similar bans have been imposed in the past on fasting for Ramadan, which began at sundown Saturday. This year is unusually sensitive because Xinjiang is under tight security following attacks that the government blames on Muslim extremists with foreign terrorist ties.
There was an attack on May 22nd in the regional capital of Urumqi by four people who threw bombs in a vegetable market killing 43 people.. On June 22nd, police in Kashgar said they killed 13 assailants who drove into a police building and set off explosives, injuring three officers. Authorities have blamed two other attacks at train stations in Urumqi and in China’s southwest on Muslim extremists.
Authorities blame separatist Muslim Uighurs, but Uighur leaders deny they are behind the attacks.
According to the BBC News, Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslim and they make up about 45% of the region’s population while another 40% are Han Chinese. China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan and since then, there has been large scale immigration of Han Chinese.
The ruling communist party in China is atheist and is wary of religious activities because it worries they might serve as a rallying point for opposition to the current one party rule.
On Tuesday, authorities in some communities in Xinjiang held celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party and served food to test whether Muslim guests were fasting, according to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman in Germany for the rights group World Uyghur Congress.
The South China Morning Post quotes Raxit as saying”China taking these kind of coercive measures, restricting the faith of Uygurs, will create more conflict.”
He added “We call on China to ensure religious freedom for Uygurs and stop political repression of Ramadan.”
Last month, China placed a strict ban on bras being worn during university entrance exams in an effort to crack down on cheating.
Government agencies in China insist that the ban on fasting is for the health of the citizens and is not specifically related to Ramadan.
photo via channelnewsasia.com