In another development to the rapidly deteriorating relations between the ethnic Uighur population and Chinese authorities, government departments in Xinjiang have banned Muslim staff from fasting during the month of Ramadan. Authorities did not provide a rationale for the ban, citing only that the ban was enacted “in accordance with instructions from higher authorities.”
Officials have consistently blamed separatist Uighur groups for notable acts of terrorism, including several incidents of the recent past such as the Kunming station attack, a suicide bombing in Urumqi, and an attack on a police station that have left hundreds of casualties. Chinese officials shot 13 of the perpetrators of the Urumqi police station assault, and hundreds are awaiting formal charges for connections to the Urumqi bombing. But the BBC reports that with Beijing already blaming extremist Uighurs for the growing violence, the new ban on the Ramadan fast is likely to anger even moderates, who feel that it constitutes an attack on their religion and way of life.
Chinese state media has released articles on the dangers of fasting, and have encouraged specific groups like party members, civil servants, students, and teachers to not observe the fast. State run media groups have issued statements that Ramadan is a “violation of Communist Party discipline and that Saturday’s anniversary was sensitive time for social stability work.” Activist groups say the ban is tantamount to large scale discrimination and sanctioned violence against an ethnic minority, and have called on the international community to intervene.
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