A Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official conceded this week that Beijing had imposed draconian restrictions on Ramadan practices in Muslim-majority Xinjiang, denying reports of a blanket ban on activities during the holy month.
Dolkun Isa, the exiled head of the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, told Voice of America (VOA) that the CCP has intensified efforts to stifle Ramadan this year, urging Muslims to eat pork in violation of Islamic rules, imposing fasting restrictions, banning headscarves, prohibiting prayer, and other hurdles to the holy month.
His revelation came on Thursday, the same day that Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing a new report by the U.S.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), reported that Beijing is implementing a policy of “linguistic imperialism” to marginalize the ethnic group’s language with the purpose of eradicating their “ethnic identity.”
China has long oppressed its Uighur (or Uyghur) minority with the intent of erasing their religious and ethnic identity by coercing them into pledging loyalty to the communist party.
VOA learned from Isa “that Uighurs who are working in the public sector and students are asked to appear daily at canteens during lunch or they will be accused of secretly fasting and hiding ‘extremist’ tendencies.”
He revealed that Beijing mandates that some Uighur public workers ignore Ramadan, going as far as ordering the predominantly Muslim ethnic group to consume pork during the holy month, a practice forbidden by Islam.
“In some cases, Uighur employees are forced to take home pork and ordered to share with their families,” Isa told VOA. “The restrictions on Ramadan have been in place every year since 2016, but they are especially hard this year.”
Xinjiang, China’s largest province, is home to the highest concentration of the country’s Muslim minority — mainly Uighurs, but also Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, among others.
“In their attack on Uyghur culture and identity, Chinese officials have portrayed the Uyghur language as ‘incompatible with modernity’ and are removing its relevance from the education system and public life,” RFA pointed out, citing the UHRP report.
In other words, the Chinese Communist Party is moving the ban the Uighur language altogether.
Following a pattern of broader development policy that has promoted the adoption of [majority] Han [Chinese] civilization as central to modernization, China has moved to diminish the status of the Uyghur language in society.
“The CCP is making every effort to erase our culture,” Abduweli Ayup, a Uighur scholar and linguist mentioned in the UHRP report, declared.
Isa acknowledged that language is the most essential aspect of an individual’s ethnic identity.
He told RFA:
China is doing everything in its power to erase the Uyghur language—beginning in kindergarten—from every aspect of life, which is in violation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law, the constitution and the country’s international obligations.
The Uyghur language is one of the most ancient Turkic languages and has been used to make significant contributions to human civilization.
If the Uyghur language is erased, an inalienable part of human civilization will be lost. Therefore, it is not only the duty of Uyghurs to save and preserve the Uyghur language, but also the duty of the international community.
Since 2017, Beijing has intensified its Muslim crackdown, destroying their worshipping sites and forcing them into “concentration camps” that the Chinese government claims are “vocational” centers aimed at combating religious extremisms, ethnic separatism, and violent terrorism.
Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, denied that China is in any way preventing all Muslims from observing Ramadan, noting that Beijing has only imposed some restrictions.
“Muslims are free to fast in Xinjiang,” he wrote on Twitter on May 6.
“Restrictions are with Communist Party members, who are atheists; government officials, who shall discharge their duties; students who are with compulsory education & hard learning tasks,” Lijian added.
Chinese officials do not disclose how many people fall under those [communist member] categories. But the groups would include as many as two million Uighurs who are believed to be undergoing compulsory education in prison camps in Xinjiang.
Despite the Chinese diplomat’s assertion that Beijing is not completely blocking Muslim religious practices Ramadan, human rights activists, and Uighur advocacy groups have sounded the alarm about the CCP’s expansion of repressive tactics against thousands of Uighurs during the holy month.
U.S. officials believe China has sent up to three million of its Muslim minorities, mainly Uighurs, to extrajudicial “concentration camps” also dubbed “re-education” or “mind-transformation” centers.
At the facilities, the Muslim detainees and some Uighur Christian converts, are subjected to systemic torture, disappearances, executions, and arbitrary detentions in an effort to coerce them to denounce their religion in favor of the communist party.
The [Chinese] government’s April 2017 regulations to “prevent extremism” drew international outcry, with critics saying they violated basic human rights and religious freedom.
According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, the regulations forbid people in the region from wearing full-face coverings and long beards. They also prohibit them from “choosing names in an abnormal way.”
Most Muslim governments often quick to repudiate alleged mistreatments of fellow Muslims in the West and Israel, namely as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Nigeria, have kept mostly silent over the persecution of coreligionists in China, seemingly concerned about angering Beijing.
Given that Uighurs share cultural and linguistic similarities with other Turkic ethnic, Turkey felt compelled to speak out against the persecution of Islam adherents in China.