China has banned Ramadan fasting in parts of the far Western Xinjiang district – a district known to have a minority population of Uighurs, the second largest Muslim ethnic group in China. Currently, the ban only applies to children and members of public service.
State media and government websites in Xinjiang have reported that fasting is banned for Muslim party members, civil servants, students and teachers. Shops and restaurants are also being required to remain open during daylight or else be threatened with closure.
It is also reported that shops and restaurants owned by Muslims have been ordered to continue selling cigarettes and alcohol during Ramadan, or face closure.
In the Jinghe county – near the Kazakh border – food safety officials have announced they would “guide and encourage” shops and restaurants to stay open during the day throughout Ramadan.
This is not the first time China has enforced a ban like this. From 2011, the Chinese authorities have consistently brought in measures to coerce its Muslim population into not fasting during the holy month.
In June and July of 2014, school children and government workers were given food and water in the middle of the day in an attempt to target and prohibit those choosing to fast.
Chinese authorities have recently particularly cracked down on the Uighur community, blaming separatist Uighurs for a series of terrorist attacks on civilians and government buildings. The minority group has consistently denied involvement.Other measures, such as prohibitions on Islamic dress, have also emerged in the country, specifically in the Xinjiang district.
“China is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramadan approaches,” says Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress in a statement to Reuters. “The faith of the Uighurs has been highly politicised, and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance.”
Raxit also accused Chinese authorities in an interview with Radio Free Asia of “extracting guarantees from parents, promising that their children won’t fast on Ramadan.” China has a Muslim population of around 20 million. The largest Muslim ethnic group is the Hui, followed by the Uighurs.