Authorities in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are forcing Islamic students to sign a pledge not to fast during the Holy month of Ramadan, according to a report published by Radio Free Asia this week.
RFA reports that local students were forced to sign pledges alongside their parents stating that they would not fast or pray during the Islamic holy month, the first time that authorities have specifically targeted children with such measures.
“As we are students, we don’t fast,” one student told the outlet. “We have signed a school agreement and also written a letter of promise.” He added his parents are also “not allowed to practice such things in front of their children” in an attempt “to act as role models.”
According to a female cadre in Peyziwat county who spoke with the outlet, ahead of the festival, “all cadres and party members were called to the county office for a meeting, in which we were told to ‘be more vigilant’ and to ‘pay special attention’ to anyone who complains about the government’s policy regarding religious extremism.”
The case is the latest example of religious repression undertaken by Chinese Communist Party authorities, who have previously forced restaurants to stay open and limited access to mosques during the holiday, which this year takes place between May 16th and June 14th. Such measures are typically described as an attempt to combat “extremism.”
As a result, many religious communities live in fear of potential reprisal for practicing their faith, especially during special periods such as Ramadan and Easter.
“Each year, the month of Ramadan has been turned into one of fear and anxiety because of the increased restrictions, which has caused untold disturbance in the daily life of the Uyghur people,” said the President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) Dolkun Isa in the run-up to the festival.
Previous reports from inside China include cases of authorities burning down Christian crosses at some churches while forcing Muslim Uighurs to eat pork in an attempt to impose the regime’s strictly atheist values on adherents of both faiths.
Last September, Muslims in Xinjiang, home to most of the Uighur minority, claimed that police had confiscated their Qurans, warning the Islamic Holy Book contained “extremist content.” China’s Foreign Ministry later denied the allegations as “groundless allegations and rumors.”
Yet amid greater international scrutiny of their religious intolerance, Chinese authorities have pledged to crack down on so-called “Islamaphobia.” In December, a judge sentenced blogger Li Zhidong to two and a half years in prison on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” after he criticized Islamic ideology online.