Beijing tightens control of religion

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Hong Kong, October 20, 2016: The Chinese government have tightened the screws on religious freedom in Xinjiang autonomous region with new regulations allowing for parents and guardians to be reported if they “force” children into religious activities.

The new regulations in the Muslim-majority state were passed by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People’s Congress on Sept. 29 and will come into effect Nov. 1.

Parents or guardians should not “organize, lure or force minors into attending religious activities,” according to the full text of the juvenile delinquency regulations published by state-run Xinjiang Daily on Oct. 12.

The regulations stated that parents should not teach children “hardline” beliefs, or force them to wear specific clothing or other symbols. Any organization or individual has the right to stop these kinds of behaviors and inform the police, they further stated.

The rules also ban all religious activities in schools and requests that teachers educate and guide students against terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. Article 25 specifically forbids any organization or individual to keep children home from high school for religious reasons.

Shih Chien-yu, a professor at the Journalism School of Chu Hai College in Hong Kong, doubted if the regulations contradict Civil Law on guardians’ rights, and the meanings of judgmental words such as “organize, lure or force” are arguable.

The new rules come as no surprise for some.

Shih, an expert on Xinjiang, told that the regulations are consistent with Chinese policy. “The Xinjiang authority has emphasized stability after a terrorist attack in Beijing,” said Shih refferring to an incident in Tiananmen Square in 2013 when a vehicle attack killed five people and injured over 40 others. Three of those among the dead were in the SUV which burst into flames. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement claimed responsibility though their claim was disputed.

Chen Quanguo, the new party secretary of Xinjian, emphasized “carry through” and “stability” in a meeting on upholding stability in September.

Chen “decided to comprehensively tighten control of Xinjiang society. It will of course also reflect on religious policy,” Shih said.

The Xinjiang autonomous region is in China’s far west and tensions have long simmered between the Chinese authorities and indigenous ethnic Uyghur population.

– ucan

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