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No fasting during Ramadan

HONG KONG (SE): The Chinese government has placed restrictions on the observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the northern province of Xinjiang, home to the majority of the Muslim Uighur minority, Al Jazeera reported on August 2.

Although Uyghur leaders have warned the move is a recipe for further violence in the area, party leaders are being urged to broaden the restrictions on this sacred religious activity.

The report says that party officials and students under the age of 18 have been banned from taking part in the traditional fast from sunup to sunset.

The order is described by the authorities as aimed at maintaining stability during the month of Ramadan.

“It is forbidden for Communist Parties cadres, civil servants (including the retired) and students to participate in Ramadan religious activities,” a statement issued by the township of Zonglang in the Kashgar district reads.

In a more inflammatory move, it also encourages local government officials to visit Muslim leaders and bring them food during the daytime to test their obedience to government authority.

Although mosques remain open, times for services have been restricted and all foreigners banned. Muslims entering a mosque must first produce their national identity cards and hanging around after the prayer services are finished is prohibited.

Students are being encouraged to avoid public prayer altogether.

A spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, Dilxat Raxit, attributed the crackdown to the recent ethnic violence in Kashgar and Hotan, but warned that he thinks they could well have the effect of inciting more violence, instead of quelling it.

He said that it will only encourage people to resist Chinese rule even more.

The Asia Pacific director for Amnesty International, Catherine Barber, said during July, “The general trend toward repression that we see all over China is particularly pronounced in Xinjiang.”

She added, “The ethnic identity of the Uyghur people is being eroded.”

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