Local Governments in Xinjiang Continue Religious Repression During Ramadan

December 12, 2006

Local governments in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) continued strict controls in 2006 over the observance of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Local governments reported promoting rules that prevented students and teachers from observing the month-long holiday, which began in late September.

  • Kargilik county education offices required area schools to enforce communal lunches for students and teachers and take other measures to prevent students from fasting and participating in religious activities, according to a September 19 article on the Kargilik county government Web site. The offices also called on village cadres, parents, and religious figures to cooperate in enforcing the measures.
  • Aksu prefecture education offices regulated Ramadan activities in a work plan to "rectify" the area's teaching corps. The offices called for strict enforcement of rules forbidding teachers from fasting during Ramadan, from professing a religion, from participating in religious activities, and from forcing or leading students to participate in religious activities, according to a July 21 report on the Xinjiang Education Department Web site.
  • The Urumqi city government strengthened supervision of mosques during Ramadan, and inspected schools to stop students from fasting and to investigate other "illegal religious activities," according to an article posted October 11 on the Urumqi city government Web site.
  • A Yarkand county education official instructed students and teachers to accept Communist Party supervision and forbade them from fasting or participating in religious activities, according to an October 17 report on the Kashgar prefecture government Web site.

The 2006 rules continue previous restrictions that have been enforced by XUAR local governments and educational institutions during Ramadan. In 2004, for example, Hotan schools of education instituted six measures designed to control religious practice during the fasting month, according to an article posted November 10, 2004, on the Hotan Education Bureau Web site. Schools officials signed responsibility forms guaranteeing that "profession of religion will not be allowed, fasting during Ramadan will not be allowed." They also organized communal lunches and inspected students' eating habits. The Kashgar Finance and Trade school publicized measures in September 2005 to ensure that students would not fast during Ramadan or engage in other religious activities while home from school for the National Day holiday. The school required students to submit to an appraisal of their demeanor by local cadres in their hometowns, according to a September 30, 2005, bulletin on the Kashgar prefecture government Web site. Regulations forbidding state workers, students, and teachers from fasting have been in force in Hotan for several years, according to a Hotan religious official quoted in a German Press Agency article posted October 5 on the Taipei Times Web site. Yili prefecture publicized similar rules in 2003 prohibiting cadres, Communist Party members, students, and minors from fasting during Ramadan or participating in religious activities, according to an October 26, 2003, report posted on the Yili prefecture government Web site.

The Ramadan measures reflect broader controls over religion in the XUAR and over the religious practice of children and students in particular. Some of these restrictions are unseen elsewhere in China, including among Muslim communities outside the XUAR. According to Article 14 of the XUAR's 1993 Implementing Measures for the Law on the Protection of Minors, "parents or other guardians may not permit minors to be engaged in religious activities." As noted in the CECC 2006 Annual Report, no other provincial-level or national regulation on minors or religion contains this restriction. In addition, as noted in the Human Rights Watch/Human Rights in China report Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, restrictions on religious practice also extend to XUAR university students, who legally are not minors. One XUAR county recently described its technique for monitoring possible religious activity among students. Yopurgha County has instituted a "mandatory visits" system designed to monitor and reform the children of religious leaders, treating them in a similar way to truants and the children of those released from reeducation through labor [laodong jiaoyang] and reform through labor [laodong gaizao], according to a description of the program posted October 11 on the Kashgar prefecture government Web site.

For more information on Islam in China, see "Religious Freedom for China's Muslims" in section V(d), "Freedom of Religion," in the CECC 2006 Annual Report.