Draconian restrictions have been imposed on Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region to prevent “Islamic extremism”.
Under the new guidelines, Uyghur Muslims could be detained for their postures while at prayer, the colour of their hair, and even how they wear their watches.
Since April, thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained in political “re-education” camps across Xinjiang for allegedly harbouring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views.
Chinese authorities have relied on a list circulated earlier this year of “75 Signs of Religious Extremism” to detain Uyghurs amid a string of harsh policies attacking their legitimate rights and freedoms enacted since Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, was appointed to run the region in August 2016.
Among the signs of “extremism” on the list were “conducting business as usual” and “women who wear religious clothing to work” during the holy month of Ramadan, “storing or purchasing large quantities of food for home” and “acting abnormal,” and “praying in groups in public outside of mosques.”
However, Communist Party village secretaries from Hotan city in Xinjiang recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that they were notified in April of several new “signs of extremism” that security personnel should look for to determine whether a Uyghur is at risk of becoming an “Islamic radical”.
“There are many different signs of religious extremism—we have a list of 75,” a village secretary from Hotan’s Ilchi township said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said: “New guidelines say to look for those who when at prayer, stand with their legs wide apart and place their hands above their chest, and also those who dye their hair red with henna.”
In addition to existing guidelines that warn against Uyghurs who “grow their hair or beards long,” the new instructions advise authorities to be wary of “those who wear short trousers” and “those who wear a watch on their right wrist,” he said.
The communist secretary added: “In villages, people who don’t greet the party secretary or cadres, and those suddenly abstaining from drinking alcohol—these changes are [now] also considered to be a sign of religious extremism.”
The secretary did not provide details of who had issued the new guidelines or whether anyone had been detained in his village because of them.