Report: China "smothering" Islam to control Uighurs - Reuters, India
- China "smothering" Islam to control Uighurs - report
Mon April 11, 2005 11:14 PM GMT+05:30
BEIJING (Reuters) - Two U.S.-based human rights groups
have accused China of using the law heavy-handedly to
clamp down on Muslim Uighurs in its restive western
region of Xinjiang in the name of anti-separatism and
Beijing's "wholesale assault" on the Uighurs' faith
ranged from vetting imams and closing mosques to
detaining thousands every year and executions, Human
Rights Watch and Human Rights in China said in a
report released on Tuesday entitled "Devastating
Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang".
"Systematic repression of religion continues in
Xinjiang as a matter of considered state policy," said
the report, based on previously undisclosed
regulations and policies.
The groups echoed charges from other rights watchdogs
that China was using the global war on terrorism to
justify a widespread crackdown on Uighurs.
"China has opportunistically used the post-September
11 environment to make the outrageous claim that
individuals disseminating peaceful religious and
cultural messages in Xinjiang are terrorists who have
simply changed tactics," the report said.
Uighurs make up 8 million of the 19 million people in
Xinjiang and many favour greater autonomy for the
area. Some separatists have been fighting for 150
years to make the region an independent homeland they
would call East Turkestan.
"Islam is perceived as feeding Uighur ethnic identity,
and the subordination of Islam to the state is used as
a means to ensure the subordination of Uighurs as
Chinese government officials were not immediately
available to comment.
Citing internal government and Communist Party
documents, the report said China had an official
manual for regulating religion in Xinjiang that used
vague phrasing and wide-reaching policies to back many
forms of repression.
"Religious regulation in Xinjiang is so pervasive that
it creates a legal net that can catch just about
anyone the authorities want to target," Sharon Hom,
executive director of Human Rights in China, was
quoted as saying in a statement on the report's
Laws banning the disclosure of information about
policies towards minorities and religion, even those
with no connection to national security, kept
repressive regulations hidden from the public, the
China has previously denied accusations that it
suppresses Islam in Xinjiang by saying it only wants
to stop the forces of separatism, terrorism and
religious extremism in the region.
New national rules that took effect on March 1
enshrine religious belief as a basic right of all
citizens, although China still forbids worship outside
designated religious organisations.
What effect the new rules would have in Xinjiang and
across China was not clear, the report said, adding
that the rules had "understated aims" of bringing all
religions under closer control and making it even
harder for unapproved religious bodies and places of
worship to operate.
Human Rights Watch: Religious Repression of Uighurs in
China Represses Muslim Uighurs: Rights Groups
China 'crushing Muslim Uighurs'
China Rejects Rights Groups' Charge of Muslim
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