China targets parents with religion rules in Xinjiang

Government denies committing abuses and says legal rights of Uighur people are protected as new laws are announced.

    File: China guarantees freedom of religion but has cracked down on some Muslim religious schools [Aly Song/Reuters]
    File: China guarantees freedom of religion but has cracked down on some Muslim religious schools [Aly Song/Reuters]

    Parents and guardians in China's heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang who encourage or force their children into religious activities will be reported to the police, the government said on Wednesday while unveiling new education rules.

    Hundreds of people have died in recent years in Xinjiang, the far western home of the Muslim Uighur people, in unrest blamed by Beijing on fighters and separatists, though rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

    The government strongly denies committing any abuses in Xinjiang and insists the legal, cultural and religious rights of the Uighur people are fully protected.

    While China officially guarantees freedom of religion, minors are not supposed to participate in religious activity. Authorities have cracked down on underground Muslim religious schools in Xinjiang in recent years.

    INTERACTIVE: China's Uighur unrest

    New education rules, to come into effect on November 1 and carried by the official Xinjiang Daily, say parents or guardians cannot "organise, lure or force minors into attending religious activities".

    Neither should they promote hardline beliefs in children, nor force them to dress in specific clothing or other symbols, the newspaper said, echoing the tone of previous rules against beards for men or head coverings for women.

    Government rules

    "Any group or person has the right to stop these kinds of behaviours and report them to the public security authorities," the government said in the rules.

    Inside Story: Uighurs in the firing line in China?

    The rules also ban any form of religious activity in schools.

    If parents are unable to properly guide their children away from harmful ways and they cannot continue to study at their existing schools, they can apply to have their children sent to specialist schools to "receive rectification", the rules state.

    Schools must guide pupils away from separatism to create an environment that "esteems science, seeks the truth, refuses ignorance [and] opposes superstition".

    Many Uighurs resent restrictions on their culture and religion, and complain that they are denied economic opportunities amid an influx of majority Han Chinese into Xinjiang.

    China has locked up Uighurs who have campaigned for better treatment of their people, the most prominent being economics professor Ilham Tohti, jailed for life in 2014 on separatism charges.

    He was awarded a prestigious annual human rights award on Tuesday, drawing an angry response from Beijing which said he was a criminal who praised attackers.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?