The country’s Muslim minorities want more regulation for halal food. Opponents say it's a gateway to extremism.
By Matthew S. Erie
FOREIGN POLICY - September 15, 2016
Over the past six months, Chinese social media outlets have been
electrified by Chinese Muslim calls for a statute to regulate halal food
production. On social media platform Weibo, some Chinese grassroots
netizens and even scholars have equated the effort to an exercise in
terrorism and linked it to Chinese Muslim radicalization. The ugly
rhetoric says far more about the state of Islamophobia in China than it
does about the merits of halal regulation.
The halal push comes primarily from the Hui, China’s largest Muslim
group, who number at least 10 million and are far more culturally
Chinese than Uighurs, another minority Muslim group with whom the
majority Han have a particularly fraught history. Observant Muslims in
China and elsewhere follow dietary laws that specify how meat should be
prepared and which foods can and cannot be eaten. Foods that comport
with these rules are “halal.” In an age of industrial mass production,
labeling pre-packaged food products as halal helps Muslim consumers know
which products to buy, and can expand a company’s consumer base.
Similarly, a restaurant that markets itself as halal can attract a
greater number of customers. But the lack of an enforced national
standard in China on the production and sale of halal food has resulted
in widespread suspicion that some unscrupulous enterprises are selling
non-halal food, especially food that includes porcine products, as
halal. That’s why Chinese Muslims, particularly the Hui, have pushed for a nationwide truth-in-labeling law on halal food since 2002.