Some local departments in Xinjiang have banned Uyghur people in the region, including party members, civil servants, students and teachers, from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
A month where Muslims worldwide abstain from eating and drinking during the daytime, Ramadan has become a sensitive occasion in Xinjiang in the wake of China's prior restrictions and bans on the Muslim community.
Food safety officials in Jinghe county near the Kazakh border "guide and encourage" halal restaurants to have normal opening hours during Ramadan, as said on the government's official site. Restaurants that stay open will be rewarded with fewer food inspection checks.
The Chinese government had previously urged shops in Xinjiang to sell alcohol and cigarettes or be shut down, a move that was also seen as an attempt to undermine the Muslim religion in the region.
Religious restrictions were imposed on other regions in Xinjiang too. Party officials in Maralbexi county were reportedly required to give written and verbal promises "guaranteeing they have no faith, will not attend religious activities and will lead the way in not fasting over Ramadan."
"China is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramadan approaches. The faith of the [Uyghurs] has been highly politicized, and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled Uyghur group the World Uyghur Congress said in a Reuters report.
The restrictions on religious activities are part of Beijing's fight against "religious extremism". The Chinese government has blamed Uyghur separatists for violent clashes that have led to hundreds of deaths in the past few years. The CCP stresses that it protects the freedom of religion, but will remain strict on all religious activities; only allowing officially recognized religious institutions to carry on.
[Image via Ccun]