China has marked the start of the Islamic fasting period with a ban on fasting for civil servants, students and children in the province of Xinjiang, home to an astounding 10 million Uyghur Muslims.
China’s ruling party officially follows Marxist atheism and has also instructed restaurants and eateries to be kept open to "ensure that the broader masses have normal access to cuisine."
“Party members, cadres, civil servants, students and minors must not fast for Ramadan and must not take part in religious activities,” a notice posted on Thursday on the government website of central Xinjiang's Korla city, said. “During the Ramadan month, food and drink businesses must not close.”
A website by the education bureau of Shuimogou district in the regional capital Urumqi released a notification last week calling for the "prevention of students and teachers from all schools from entering mosques for religious activities" during Ramadan.
The ban is a complete contradiction to a recent announcement by Beijing.
“During the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, whether to close or open halal restaurants is completely determined by the owners themselves without interference,” a government report on religious freedom in Xinjiang said. “No citizen suffers discrimination or unfair treatment for believing in, or not believing in, any religion,” adding that “religious feelings and needs are fully respected.”
The province witnesses regular clashes between Uyghur Muslims and police forces. Beijing has blamed the “Islamic influence” flowing from across the border Xinjiang shares with Pakistan.
"China thinks that the Islamic faith of Uighurs threatens the rule of the Beijing leadership," said Dilxat Raxit of the exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, in a condemnation of the ban.
Despite the unreasonable ban on fasting, Beijing, oddly enough, insists it grants all its citizens freedom of religion.
On Thursday, China’s State Council released a paper declaring freedom of religion in Xinjiang “cannot be matched by any other period in history.”