For the whole of 2017, Communist China has gripped the province of Xinjiang with an iron fist. Tens of thousands of security police have flooded the area, according to the South China Morning Post, and are stationed on almost every block of Urumqi, the capital of the province.
Xinjiang is the traditional home of the Uighur ethnic group of Chinese. Uighurs are Muslim and number close to half of the 21 million Chinese Muslims who live in the country. Yet, unlike other areas of China, Islamophobia has turned into an active and daily violent repression in Xinjiang.
“Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements,” James Leibold, an expert on Chinese security at Australia’s La Trobe University, told the South China Morning Post. But analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open air prison. China is “essentially creating a police state of unprecedented scale,” said Leibold.
According to the UAE National, Beijing has plastered Uighur mosques with posters that announce which religious practices have been deemed illegal in Xinjiang by the Communist government. Punishable offenses include holding private Quranic study sessions, sending children to religious schools, praying in public, children and teens entering mosques and growing a beard before the age of 50. Muslims in Xinjiang are now even forbidden to name their newborn children after the Holy Beloved Last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Hundreds of Uighur Muslims who made pilgrimage to visit the holy sites of the Mosque of the Holy Last Messenger in Madinah and the Holy Kaaba in Makkah were placed in a detention center upon their return for “investigation and screening,” a human rights lawyer in the region told the US State Department’s media outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA.org) “There is a huge crackdown in Xinjiang,” said the lawyer, who asked not to be named. “I came across a detention center—the Changji Detention Center—where there were 200-300 Uyghurs who were being held after coming back from pilgrimage.” According to the RFA report, Article 21 of the “26 Forms of Illegal Religious Activity” (leaked to RFA in February) forbids anyone from traveling overseas on pilgrimage with companies not endorsed by the state.
Muslims Discouraged From Greeting
The anonymous rights lawyer asserted that courts across the region are being ordered by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to “deal with” anyone engaging in any form of “illegal religious activity.”
This term might refer to the salutation used by Muslims, as a local teacher and a government official both told the South China Morning Post that schools discourage students from using the traditional Muslim greeting in Arabic “As-Salaamu Alaikum,” or “peace be upon you.”
“The government thinks this Islamic word is equal to separatism,” the official said.
Gatherings in Homes Now Illegal
RFA also published details of Article 3, which bans “any religious activity organized by persons not in possession of the relevant permits for a religious personage or who have not undergone patriotic education.”
Unfortunately, 2017 was not the first year that Muslims in Xinjiang were forbidden to fast by the state. The ban includes anyone working in state offices or facilities and all students.
This year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chairman Daniel Mark issued a statement condemning the human rights violations perpetrated by Chinese Communist Party officials who were “assigned to live in the homes of Uighur families in Xinjiang to prevent them from fasting and praying.”
Forced Collection of Muslim DNA
Human Rights Watch recently reported on China’s mass, forced collection of DNA from Uighurs: “Evidence suggests that the regional government in Xinjiang, an ethnic minority region with a history of government repression, intends to accelerate the collection and indexing of DNA. In many parts of the country, police officers are compelling ordinary individuals – neither convicted nor even suspected of a crime – to have their blood drawn and DNA taken. Samples have also been collected from vulnerable groups already targeted for increased government surveillance, including migrant workers, dissidents, and minority Muslim Uyghurs.”
The DNA Policy Initiative says widespread DNA collection opens up doors for further abuse based on ethnicity, allowing oppressive governments to restrict “access to jobs, visas or housing – or more serious abuses of human rights, including ethnic cleansing and even genocide.”