07/14/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Uyghur students expelled from school for praying “illegally”

In order to hold back separatism in Xinjiang, the homeland of Turkic-speaking Muslim Uyghurs, Beijing is forcing young Uyghurs to study far from home. At the same time, it is preventing them from praying or fasting for Ramadan.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – School authorities have expelled two Muslim Uyghur students in the eastern province of Zhejiang because they were involved “in illegal religious activities”. They were attending a high school linked to the Hangzhou Normal University and were thrown out because they were caught attending a Muslim prayer. “The school said that they had been engaged in illegal religious activities,” an overseas Uyghur website reported.

One of the students was from Ili Prefecture, the other from Shache County. Their place of origin is important because it shows that Beijing is trying to re-educate Uyghurs, this according to Dilxat Raxit, representative for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress. Most Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim and Turkic in language, live in Xinjiang province.

Local Chinese authorities have been forcibly sending students to other parts of China. The province itself has been the scene of anti-Han Chinese demonstrations and unrest.

Uyghur students have been denied the right to participate in religious activities, including celebrations based on their calendar. When they do, their parents have been given steep fines.

This is true for Xinjiang as well. "Every year in Urumqi there are high school students who are expelled from school," Raxit said, because they fast “during [the Muslim holy month of] Ramadan”.

China’s Communist government is very concerned about the Uyghurs, who are about 16 million and connected by language and religion to other Central Asian peoples. Despite their incorporation into the People’s Republic of China, they have never accepted their total subordination to Beijing.

Like in other sensitive regions, China has undertaken a policy of demographic colonisation of the Uyghur homeland. Han Chinese, who were just 6 per cent of the population in Xinjiang in 1949, now constitutes 40 per cent. In the regional capital of Urumqi, they are actually 80 per cent.
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