BEIJING - China has vehemently denied reports that Muslims in Xinjiang were asked to hand over copies of the Holy Quran, prayer mat and other items symbolic of Islam.
An official at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad described the reports as “propaganda”, saying Radio Free Asia, which had reported the occurrence, was famous for running stories against China .
“Their reports are always unbalanced with an agenda to malign Chinese authorities. The report is totally fake and irresponsible,” the official added.
In its White Paper titled “Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang“, China says “respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a long-term basic national policy of the Chinese government. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China clearly stipulates: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.””
To ensure successful pilgrimages for believers in Islam, the paper says, Xinjiang adopts a policy of organised and planned pilgrimages.
“Citizens’ religious feelings and needs are fully respected. During Ramazan, open halal (Muslim food) restaurants is completely determined by the owners themselves without interference. There are mosques with a tradition of having iftar.”
Similarly, it adds, traditional practices of a religious nature, such as naming a child, funeral pray, burial, and holding Nazer (memorial activities), are respected.
Quoting a report by Radio Free Asia, BBC Urdu said officials made announcements through local mosques and neighbourhoods of the province, where mostly Muslims of the Uighur, Kyrgyz and Kazakh origins reside, to abide by the directives or face punitive action.
A spokesperson for the World Uighur Conference said they received such reports from Kashgar, Hotan and other areas during the last week. A notification, the said, has also been received, directing the Uighur to submit items symbolic of Islam.