WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Muslims around the world mark the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr celebrations, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the Chinese government’s restrictions on Uighur and other Muslims’ religious practices. These restrictions are particularly egregious during this month-long period of introspection, fasting, prayer, and devotion.
“The Chinese government once again has banned government employees, students, and children from fasting, and in some cases praying, during Ramadan,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “While restrictions on Uighur Muslims’ religious practices take place year round, they are particularly onerous during Ramadan, giving lie to the government’s claim that Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang enjoy religious freedom. They do not. The Chinese government is violating its own constitution and international human rights standards by denying religious freedom to its citizens.”
The government imposed Ramadan restrictions this year after it issued a June white paper, Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang, that highlights the supposed religious freedom experienced by people of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the majority of China’s Uighur Muslim population lives. The paper alleges that the government protects “normal” religious activities and respects citizens’ religious needs and customs.
Rather than recognize that the vast majority of Uighur Muslims peacefully practice their faith, Chinese regional and central governments treat the entire Uighur community as potential violent terrorists whose “extreme religious activities” must be monitored, controlled, and restricted.
To these ends, local authorities throughout the year seek to ban any visible Islamic expression, including men’s beards and women’s face-covering veils, and prohibit children under 18 from practicing any religion. Authorities also regularly surveil mosques and harass religious adherents.
The government’s crackdown since 2009 on religious activities and expression in Xinjiang has led to the detention and deaths of hundreds of Uighur Muslims, fueling resentment and the very extremism the government claims it is trying to quell.
For more information, please see USCIRF’s China chapter in the 2016 Annual Report (in English and Chinese). See also the following press release about Professor Ilham Tohti’s life sentence: USCIRF Calls on the Release of Ilham Tohti and other Prisoners of Conscience.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-786-0615.