There are conflicting reports over whether China has issued a partial ban on fasting in Ramadan in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang.
Some reports say that China has imposed a ban on fasting for teachers, students and civil servants in Xinjiang province in northwest China where Uyghur Muslims constitute 58 percent of the population.
An announcement on a local Chinese government website a few days ago stated “party members, cadres, civil servants, students, and minors must not fast for Ramadan and must not take part in religious activities.” The statement continued, “food and drink businesses must not close.”
Following the announcement Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told the Khaleej Times, “China thinks that the Islamic faith of Uyghurs threatens the rule of Beijing leadership.”
However, Chinese media is now reporting that government officials have publicly announced that practices such as fasting and other standard religious activities in Xinjiang will not be interfered with during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Restaurants will be allowed to keep their own hours and authorized activities in mosques and private homes will be legally protected, reports say.
China maintains tight control over Islamic observances in the area to maintain government control and curb the alleged influence of “radical Islam. This follows the rise of an independence movement in the province in recent decades.
Xinjiang province is the country’s most westerly region, bordering on the former Soviet states of Central Asia, as well as several other states including Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia.
The largest ethnic group, the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs, has lived in China’s shadow for centuries. The region has had an intermittent history of autonomy and occasional independence, but was finally brought under Chinese control in the 18th century.
Communist China established the Autonomous Region in 1955, and began to encourage Han Chinese to settle there in new industrial towns and farming villages run by the quasi-military Xinjiang Production and Development Corps. China also set up its nuclear testing facility at Lop Nur in the Tarim Basin, conducting the first test there in 1964.
International attention turned to Xinjiang in July 2009 when bloody clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region’s main city, Urumqi, prompted the Chinese government to send large numbers of troops to patrol the streets. Nearly 200 people were killed in the unrest.