- Authorities in Xinjiang have ordered Muslim families to hand in religious items
- Ethnic minority neighbourhoods will face harsh punishment if they are found
- China has revised its regulation on religious affairs in a bid to reduce extremism
Chinese authorities are reportedly stepping up their campaign against Muslims in the north-western region of Xinjiang.
According to sources in the region, officials have been warning neighbourhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Muslim families are being forced to hand in religious items including the Koran and prayer mats.
They face severe punishment if they are discovered.
According to Radio Free Asia, reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week.
The spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, Dilxat Raxit said they received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home.
Copies of the Koran and related items must be handed into the government authorities, and there are will be notices being broadcast via WeChat, China‘s most popular social media app.
According to local officials, Xinjiang authorities earlier this year, began removing all Korans published more than five years ago due to extremist content.
The Korans were taken as part of the ‘Three Illegals and One Item’ campaign that was underway in Xinjiang, which is against ‘illegal’ religious items owned by mostly Muslim Uyghurs.
This operation bans ‘illegal’ publicity, religious activities, religious teaching, and items believed to be tools of terrorism including flammable objects, and knives.
The Uyghur American Association said in a recent press release that China has introduced new regulations that further criminalise religious practice and belief.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project has asked China to respect international human rights standards on freedom of religion and to end the targeting of Uyghurs.
China says it is facing threats from domestic cults and radical Islam, however, critics have accused Beijing of a broader pattern of harassment, detention and abuse.
According to a copy of the regulations posted on the State Council’s official website the latest measures focus on ‘maintaining legality, blocking extremism, and attacking crime’.
By CLAIRE HEFFRON