China has instituted a police state in its largest province and increased regulations against practicing Islam in the region.
The Chinese government created a strict surveillance state in Xinjiang, China’s largest province and home to the Muslim Uyghur people. In addition to trying to force Muslims to eat and serve food during the month of Ramadan, the government banned all public prayer, criminalized sporting a beard for anyone younger than 50 years old, and installed security cameras in mosques which send a live feed of all congregational activities to local police stations, according to a Thursday report from Agence Fance-Presse.
“This is not a good place for religion,” a local trader told AFP.
Muslims attending mosque for prayer were forced to pass through metal detectors and police ID checks, while members of the Communist Party monitored the congregation’s activities. Police manned checkpoints in the region during the approach of Eid, the celebration of the end of Ramadan, armed with makeshift spears and rifles. Restaurants which refused to serve food during Ramadan were permanently closed by government officials as punishment.
The Chinese government justified these harsh measures as necessary to prevent and root out radical Islamic ideology in the region. Government officials started this series of oppressive regulations in 2009, in response to riots that killed over 200 people.
Chinese officials claimed that Muslims in the region were responsible for bombings, stabbings, and riots with the government that have killed hundreds, according to AFP. One such incident was the 2014 knife attack at a railway station that left 31 people dead, reported by CNN. The four attackers involved were Uyghur.
But the measures enacted, ostensibly to increase security, have served only to increase the threat of violence from foreign sources sympathetic to the Uyghur people.
A group of Uyghur Muslims living in Iraq, allegedly connected to ISIS, threatened in March to return to China to “shed blood like rivers.” President Xi Jinping ordered a “great wall of iron” to be built around the region in response to that threat, according to Xinhuanet.
The region is home to 19 million people, 8 million of whom are Uyghur muslims.
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