Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 05 Ramadan 1436/22 June 2015

China’s Muslim community in Xinjiang welcomed Ramadaan on a sour note. Government in this region, some of whom have been forced to sign a no-fast pledge, has banned students and state employees as well as bureaucrats from sawm to observe the holy month and went on to order restaurants in Xinjiang – to the far west of China and bordering Kashmir as well as Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and others – to remain open as usual throughout, and beyond, this period.

“Chinese government is always (imposing) new restrictions, new rules against Muslim people in Uzbekistan. They’re forbidding fasting especially for the students and employees,” said Dolkum Esa, chairman of World Uygur Congress executive committee. Esa also told Cii listeners that this is now the third year that Beijing has clamped down to restrict freedom of religion and expression by forcing people not to fast during Ramadaan or, in fact, to observe other tenets of Islam and other religions.

“This forbidding is for the general, for all the people,” Esa said, explaining that it wasn’t only government workers or students who endured the state ban on fasting. Regardless of their religion or choice to observe this month by fasting, Muslims, explained the leader of the Uygur organisation, are forced to eat and drink water during the day –or face punishment. The clampdown tackles those who, in desperate bid to comply with the Islamic teachings, previously managed to get away with secret sawm. Until two years ago, the tradition was for restaurants to open just in time for iftar, he added.

Beijing’s behavior contradicts the Asian country’s constitution when it comes to matters of freedom of religion, Esa observed. “According to Chinese constitution, (everyone) has a right to believe or not. It is a constitutional right. But in reality you don’t have such a right,” he said, adding that police and bureaucracy tend to restrict the freedom of movement towards mosque whether for Jummuah or other reasons – by ensuring that you can only gain access to a specific mosque if you live in a certain area – and also makes it hard for people to perform namaz. In Ramadaan, the state polices which houses have lights on around suhoor time and officers pounce on them. Just stop and ponder this for a moment. “That is why some people make it in the dark,” Esa explained, noting that such choices always trigger state punishment.

“It’s religious restriction, religious persecution, not only during the Ramadaan time – it’s a general situation,” he said, in a transcontinental interview with Sabahul Khair, adding that Beijing is particularly restrictive during this period.

Esa lamented the prevailing situation as “barbaric and unbelievable prosecution” in his country. “It is a really, really unbelievable situation.” Punishment of those who fail to comply include paying fines, losing a job or, in the case of students, being deregistered. Stop and ponder that too. Go on and do something about it. Restaurant owners stand to have their businesses shut down or deregistered by government officials if they fail to stay open during the day.

The Uyghur movement has repeatedly asked China to end its religious restrictions. The organisation is of the view that this “barbaric and unbelievable prosecution” will further polarise the Chinese population on the basis of religion and turn the people against Beijing.