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The Chinese government has banned civil servants, students and teachers in its Xinjiang region from observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, prohibiting them from fasting or praying.
The commercial affairs bureau of Turfan city wrote on its website that “civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities”, AFP and South China Morning Post reported.
The Xinjiang region is predominantly Muslim, and has been plagued by violence in recent years as members of the region’s Uighur ethnic group claim there has been discrimination and restrictions on religion, such as the prohibition against taking children to mosques.
Several other government bodies have also shown their support against fasting. The state-run Bozhou Radio and TV university said on its website it would “enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities.”
“We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast,” it added.
Meanwhile, a weather bureau in western Xinjiang wrote on its website that “in accordance with instructions from higher authorities… (it) calls on all current and retired staff not to fast during Ramadan”.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the rights group World Uyghur Congress, wrote in an email to AP he was worried the ban would “lead to more conflicts if China uses coercive measures to rule and to challenge Uighur beliefs.
“We call on China to ensure religious freedom for Uyghur and stop political repression of Ramadan.”