Sunday, June 19, 2016

Religious freedom in Xinjiang

PAKOBSERVER - Jun 17, 2016

Sultan M Hali

There have been reports in the western media and also unwittingly reproduced in a section of Pakistani Press that China is curbing religious freedom in Xinjiang. According to the fallacious report, China has banned civil servants, students and teachers in its mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open. This scribe visited Xinjiang in Ramadan and has interviewed government servants and ordinary Chinese Muslims as well as Pakistanis in the Muslim majority province and found that the allegation lacking veracity.
The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region or Xinjiang is located in northwest China. For thousands of years it has been a multi-ethnic region of multiple religions. At present, the major religions in Xinjiang are Islam, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Taoism.
After the People’s Republic of China was founded, people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang gained the freedom of religious belief. The central government and local governments at all levels of Xinjiang have fully implemented the system of regional ethnic autonomy and the policy on the freedom of religious belief, and constantly improved laws and regulations on the administration of religious affairs. The majority population of Xinjiang is Islam and till recently, the province lagged behind the more opulent Eastern region of China, which led to a sense of deprivation amongst the people. The feelings of neglect were exploited by vested interests to urge the Uyghurs to strive for their rights, which caused some incidents of violence.