Database Entry: China's Uyghur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned
Surveillance Religious Persecution Internment Destruction of the Family Restricting journalism Use of technology

China's Uyghur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned

June 06, 2019
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Lined with facial recognition security cameras both inside and out, Id Kah mosque in Kashgar is under the constant watch of patrolling police officers armed with batons and riot shields.

Widespread intimidation - from inside mosques to family homes - mean residents don’t dare utter the traditional Islamic greeting, “as-salaam alaikum”, while fasting is also banned, with restaurants forced to stay open.

Local officials are increasing checks to people’s homes, too, to make sure they aren’t secretly observing the practice, according to a government notice posted online.

In the corner that remains, Chinese tourists snap photos of Uighur children in the narrow lanes by homes with red signs that deem them “virtuous” households – a government programme that recognises ‘good’ behaviour.

The Telegraph was followed so tightly that it was impossible to conduct interviews in the open. But in snatches of private conversations, Uighurs raised deep concerns without being prompted. Near one internment camp, our Uighur driver shut off the radio and snuffed out his cigarette, his lively demeanour suddenly subdued. That compound was “much trouble,” he said, making the motion of being handcuffed. Police tracked his vehicle and he never got too close out of fear he’d end up inside.

Another confided he’d been detained for a few days and that his wife remained imprisoned, now for 18 months, leaving him alone to raise their two young children. “I am worried,” he said. “I don’t know for how much longer [she will be held].”

At highway checkpoints, Uighurs are stopped for full body and face scans and vehicle searches. To pass, they must swipe their ID cards at turnstiles, prompting personal details to pop up on screens for officers to monitor, creating a digital trail of their movements.

Now, the ruling Communist Party has launched a propaganda campaign about snuffing out “criminal” and “terrorist” activity. All across Xinjiang – meaning “new frontier” – are bright red banners reminding people to fight illegal, “cult” behaviour, listing hotlines to report suspicious activity. “Love the Party, love the country,” hangs a streamer at one mosque, just above the metal detector. A highway billboard proclaims, “Secretary Xi is linked heart-to-heart with Xinjiang minorities,” referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.

A retired Han couple said they finally felt safe enough to visit Xinjiang given the strong police presence. “We’ve been here for a week and we haven’t seen any scuffles,” Zuo Xiaofang, from Shanghai, told the Telegraph. “We heard it used to be a mess here.”

“Han and Uighur are a united family!” said a Han Chinese barista in the old city, now turned a garish cultural theme park, where many mosques have shuttered, with Islamic features like onion domes or the crescent moon removed.

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