China punishes Xinjiang official for openly practising faith

August 25, 2014
(A Muslim Uighur man prays at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in the southwestern part of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, September 17, 2003. China has been carrying out patriotic re-education in mosques in order to suppress separatism. The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur separatists have been fighting for the past 150 years for an independent East Turkestan homeland in southern Xinjiang. The Id Kah Mosque has been established for more than 500 years and is the biggest in China. Picture taken September 17, 2003. REUTERS/Andrew Wong )

(A Muslim Uighur man prays at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,┬áSeptember 17, 2003. REUTERS/Andrew Wong)

China has reprimanded 15 Xinjiang officials for violations that include adhering to religious faith, state media has said, amid a crackdown on what the government calls illegal religious activities in the unruly western region.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence that the Chinese government blames on Islamist militants and separatists.

One official in the southern city of Kashgar, where a state-backed imam was killed last month, had “worshipped openly”, the official Xinhua news agency said, behaviour which violated rules that state workers not be religious.

“The punishment of expulsion from public office was handed to [the official] surnamed Mai who violated the clear regulation that state workers must not have religious faith,” Xinhua said, citing the city’s Uighur mayor, Ainiwaer Tuerxun. Mai had “remained devout and incorrigible, and had a poor attitude,” the report added.

Tensions are running high in Xinjiang, after officials told Muslims to eschew religious customs during the fasting month of Ramadan, which rights groups saw as an bid to repress Uighurs.

Another official was punished, according to Xinhua, for having “ambiguous understanding and attitudes, sluggish action, and ineffective implementation toward counter-terrorism operations”.

Punishments for violations, which included spreading information that was harmful to ethnic unity, ranged from expulsion from government positions to stern warnings.

All of the officials were from Kashgar, an old Silk Road city with a largely Uighur population, though the abbreviated surnames given by Xinhua made their ethnicities unclear.

Hundreds have died in violence in Xinjiang in the past year and a half, prompting a sweeping crackdown by authorities.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest, a claim Beijing denies.

State media reported last week that authorities in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi closed 27 places used for “underground” preaching and detained 44 illegal imams as part of an operation to “rescue” 82 children from religious schools known as madrassas.

China punishes the study of Islam outside the confines of tightly controlled state mosques and children are prohibited from attending madrassas, prompting many parents who wish to provide a religious education to use underground schools.

— by Michael Martina in Beijing

via China punishes Xinjiang official for openly practising faith | Reuters.

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