How China Kept Lid on Ramadan

The Los Angeles Times reports on the lengths that authorities went to in Xinjiang to ensure that the Muslim Uighur population there didn’t celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in August:

In the aftermath of violent protests this year by Uighurs, the ethnic Turkic and Muslim minority living in northwestern China, authorities have deepened their campaign against religious practices — particularly during Ramadan.

For years, China has restricted observance of Ramadan for Communist Party members and government cadres. On one website for an agricultural bureau, for instance, employees were reminded “not to practice any religion, not to attend religious events and not to fast.”

This year, the local Communist Party also ordered restaurants to remain open during the day, event though chefs and most of their potential customers were fasting. Failure to keep their doors open made restaurants subject to fines of up to $780, the equivalent of several months’ salary.

So restaurateurs made token gestures, assigning one waiter to sit in the doorway and a chef to make a single dish that would be either eaten cold at night or discarded.

Uighur activists exiled abroad say that the political control over Uighurs intensified after September 11, 2001, when the Chinese government began to increasingly label political or religious activities as “terrorism”. From AFP:

“The Chinese authorities found in 9/11 the perfect excuse tocrack down on all forms of peaceful political, social and cultural Uighur dissent,” the exiled head of the congress, Rebiya Kadeer, said in a statement.

“The past decade has proved that the Chinese government is misusing the fight against terrorism to curb Uighur dissent and silence political opponents.

“While the number of protests against government policies is increasing day by day in the whole country, only Uighur protests are labelled as ‘terrorism’.”

Numerous outbreaks of ethnic violence have erupted in Xinjiang in recent years as the Uighur minority bristles under what it regards as cultural and religious oppression and an unwanted immigration of ethnic Han Chinese.

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