China, Beijing: Officials said yesterday, China’s government won’t interfere with fasting and other standard religious activities in the traditionally Muslim region of Xinjiang during the Islamic holy month of Ramazan that begins this month. Restaurants will be allowed to keep their own hours and authorized activities in mosques and private homes will be legally protected, despite complaints from rights groups and others of past government interference during the religious holiday.
Xinjiang is home to China’s Muslim Uighur minority group that is culturally, religiously and linguistically distinct from the Chinese majority. It has seen waves of violence against civilians in recent years which authorities have blamed on radicals seeking independence from Beijing. China maintains tight restrictions over Islamic observances in the area, in part to maintain government control and stem the influence of radical Islam.
However, human rights groups and Uighurs in exile say restrictions on dress, prayer and fasting during Ramazan have exacerbated ethnic tensions, while government efforts to assimilate Uighurs have stoked resentment. President Xi Jinping recently stated that members of the ruling Communist Party should be “unyielding Marxist atheists,” and the state imposes strict rules on participation in religious by students, teachers, public servants and others.