Beijing has put only partial restrictions on Ramadan activities, not a total ban on fasting by the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, says Lijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at China’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Zhao confirmed that there is ‘no blanket ban’. “That’s Western propaganda.” He said Xinjiang residents are free to fast during Ramadan and those restrictions were limited to those with official responsibilities to ensure their religious practices did not interfere with their public duties.
“Restrictions are with the Communist Party members, who are atheists; government officials, who shall discharge their duties; and students who are with compulsory education and hard learning tasks,” Zhao explained. However, the diplomat failed to disclose the number of people falling under these categories. Various activists and media reports say the group could well be over millions of Uighur who are believed to be kept in detention centres in Xinjiang.
Over the past year, human rights activists and Uighur advocacy groups have expressed concerns about the Chinese government’s widening repression of thousands of Uighurs.
The head of Germany-based World Uighur Congress, Dolkun Isa said the Uighurs who are working in the public sector and students are asked to appear daily at canteens during lunch. Isa said if not, they will be accused of secretly fasting and hiding ‘extremist’ tendencies.
“Government workers are also forced to take home food and share with their family members. Other common Muslim practices such as attending prayers and wearing a head scarf are also banned for local residents.”
The exiled Uighur leader said restrictions on Ramadan is not something new for them as it has been put in place since 2016. However, he confided that this year, it’s particularly hard.