Datenbankeintrag: How the CCP Took over the Most Sacred of Uighur Rituals

How the CCP Took over the Most Sacred of Uighur Rituals

December 09, 2020
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Important lifecycle rituals—baby-namings, circumcision, funerals, and weddings—provide opportunities for devout and casually religious families alike to strengthen connections. These ceremonies recommit the community to a religious path while forging and reinforcing kinship bonds between relatives (oruq-tughan), neighbors (qoshna), and friends.

Currently, however, these rites—known generically in official Chinese sources as the “four activities” (si xiang huodong, 四项活动)—demand the overbearing presence of the state in a formalized process referred to as the four applications, four delegations, and four receipts. According to this policy, families intending to hold naming ceremonies, circumcisions, funerals, and weddings must first file an official application. Then an official from the village Party branch will accompany religious clerics to the event, which the Party branch documents in a receipt.…
The new rules surrounding the “four activities” put CCP officials right at the center of key Uighur ceremonies. The Central Party Committee in the city of Balghuntai (Baluntai) issued detailed regulations of these events with the ultimate goal of “transferring the management of these rites from religious officials to Party leaders.” The village Party branch representative, or, if unavailable, the highest ranking official in attendance, supervises the entire event. That official also chooses a patriotic religious cleric, if one is needed, to preside over the ceremony. In other words, the Party’s policy around the “four activities” places authority in the hands of Party officials. Religious clerics can only officiate over or recite prayers during these ceremonies if they have been appointed by local officials.

In some cases, Party officials even assume the role of officiant. In a village located in Bay (Baicheng) county, cadres named a newborn boy and an official remarked that he hoped the child would grow up to be “filial, patriotic, and useful to society.”

Meanwhile, officials have uprooted such ceremonies from their customary setting in the sacred spaces of Uighur homes and transplanted them to concrete government-built containers called Villager Service Centers. A social media page promoting a newly-opened service center in Khotan (Hotan) advertised, “From now on, residents can hold their [‘four activities’] here!!! It’s convenient, thrifty, and an upgrade!!!”

Held within spaces curated by the state, the events become opportunities to promulgate CCP policies. In 2017, Khotan officials convened to “weaken the religious fervor” of the “four activities” in which any of them participated. The Party made clear its intention to diminish the religious aspects of events for civilian participants, as well.

Whether aimed at Uighur Party officials, or at the larger population, these efforts seek to erase the religious underpinning of Uighur ceremonies.