China has banned, teachers, students and civil servants in it’s mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and have ordered restaurants to stay open.
Muslim are required to fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month. However, China’s ruling communist party are believed to be atheist, and for many years they have restricted the practice in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority.
Officials in the region’s Bole County were told: “During Ramadan do not engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities.”
For the past couple of years, authorities have attempted to ban fasting among Uighur Muslims. However, the authorities received criticism from right groups.
The Uighur rights group have said that China’s restrictions on Islam in Xinjiang have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.
China has said that they face a “terrorist threat” in Xinjiang, with officials “religious extremism” for the growing violence.
“China’s goal in prohibiting fasting is to forcibly move Uighurs away from their Muslim culture during Ramadan,” said Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress.
“Policies that prohibit religious fasting is a provocation and will only lead to instability and conflict.”
The education bureau of Tarbaghatay city, known as Tacheng in Chinese, have said that schools students have been ordered to not fast during Ramadan, to not enter mosques and to not attend religious activities.
Similar orders were posted on the websites of other Xinjiang education bureaus and schools.
Officials in the regions Qiemo County met with local religious leaders to inform them that there will be an inspection during Ramadan in order to maintain social stability.
One village in Yili, near the border with Kazakhstan had said mosques must check the identification cards to anyone who comes to pray during Ramadan.
The Bole county government have said that Mehmet Talip, a 90-year-old Uighur Communist Party member had promised to avoid fasting and vowed to “not enter a mosque in order to consciously resist religious and superstitious ideas.”