After a recent security crackdown in Xinjiang, a region in the northwest of China, Chinese authorities are imposing a ban on Ramadan fasting for students, government officials, and civil servants, claiming that the ban is aimed at protecting people's "wellbeing."
The holy month of Ramadan began on Saturday at sundown, and though fasting bans have been put into place before, this particular instance comes from fear amid recent deadly attacks in the city. The government blames the recent attacks on Muslim extremists and heightened conflict between the Muslim population of Xinjiang and the dominant Han Chinese, whose religion is primarily Buddhist, Daoist, or Christian.
Via the AP:
Violence has escalated in recent years in Xinjiang. The ruling party blames violent extremists that it says want independence, while members of the region's Uighur ethnic group complain that discrimination and restrictions on religion, such as a ban on taking children to mosques, are fueling anger at the ethnic Han Chinese majority.
After the recent violence, the government instituted a crackdown on the city, arresting over 380 people in one month. As the AP reports, the central government has fears of religious activity, worrying that it "might serve as a rallying point for opposition to one-party rule."
The bans are allegedly intended to keep religion out of education and civil society, though that same standard is reportedly not held for those who are children of Han Chinese.
In the city of Bole, retired teachers from the Wutubulage Middle School were called in to stand guard at mosques and prevent students from entering, according to a statement on the municipal party committee website.
Also in Bole, the Bozhou University of Radio and Television said on its website it held a meeting with working and retired minority teachers on the first day of the Ramadan to remind them of the fasting ban.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman in Germany for World Uyghur Congress, told the AP that the central government is testing Muslims to see if they are actually fasting despite the ban.
On Tuesday, authorities in some communities in Xinjiang held celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party and served food to test whether Muslim guests were fasting.