For Beijing, Xinjiang Muslims have “unparalleled freedom”
Home to the Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking minority that has resisted Beijing’s rule, Xinjiang is one of China’s most turbulent provinces. Hiding behind the fight against terrorism, the government has imposed restrictions in education and religious practice, but for the new white paper, things are fine.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The information office of China’s State Council has recently issued a white paper claiming that Muslims in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang have freedom unparalleled in other parts of the country.
“No resident has received discrimination or unjust treatment based on their religious or lack of religious belief,” the paper says. However, analysts contend that discrimination and prejudice are the normal state of affairs for Muslims.
Xinjiang is one of China’s most turbulent provinces. It is home to about 9 million Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim and Turkic ethnic group that has always sought independence from China.
For its part, China’s central government has pursued a policy of settling ethnic Han Chinese in the province to make them the majority and thus quell social unrest. This has meant serious restrictions on religious freedom, Islamic practices, as well as the local language and culture.
On several occasions, Chinese authorities have prevented or restricted Ramadan fasting, banned beards, raided mosques, and searched the homes of Muslim clerics, to monitor potential “terrorism”.
Since 2009, the province has been under a special regime giving extra powers to police and army after clashes left nearly 200 people dead. The crackdown that followed the violence resulted in hundreds of prison sentences and dozens of death penalties.
Chinese authorities blamed the violence on Muslim extremists, but Uighur exiles say that Beijing is exaggerating the threat of Islamic terrorism to justify repression against the local population.
None of this is true according to the white paper, which claims that freedom of religious belief in Xinjiang today “cannot be matched by that in any other historical period, and is undeniable to anyone who respects the facts”.
Yet, China’s “lies could not cover up the truth” about its openly restrictive and prohibitive religious policies, said Dilxat Rexit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress in Germany.