Government workers, teachers and members of the ruling Communist Party in China’s Muslim northwest have been prohibited from taking part in fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
During the holy month, the Muslim faithful fast from dawn to dusk and strive to be more pious.
On Monday, Chinese authorities reportedly encouraged Uighurs to eat free meals on Monday, and inspected homes to check if the fast was being observed, Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, told AFP citing local sources.
Statements posted on Wednesday on the websites of government agencies and schools in the Xinjiang region warned employees not to participate in fasting or religious activities for Ramadan.
The website of a local party committee in the county of Zhaosu said party cadres at a forestry bureau there signed a pledge to “firmly resist fasting.”
A grade school said on its website it would prevent teachers and students from fasting.
Xinjiang is a mainly Muslim region, home to the Uighur minority. For years China’s ruling Communist party has restricted fasting in the region, which has seen sees regular and often deadly clashes between Uighurs and state security forces.
According to AFP, the state-run Bozhou Radio and TV University said on its website that it would “enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities.”
“We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast,” it added.
A weather bureau in Qaraqash county in western Xinjiang said on its website that “in accordance with instructions from higher authorities,” it “calls on all current and retired staff not to fast during Ramadan.”
A state office which manages the Tarim River basin posted pictures of its staff wearing traditional Uighur “doppa” caps tucking into a group meal on Saturday.
“Although the meal coincided with the Muslim festival of Ramadan, the cadres who took part expressed a positive attitude and will lead the non-fasting,” it said.
Meanwhile, the commercial affairs bureau of Turfan city said on its website on Monday that “civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities.”
China has in the past said that restrictions on fasting are meant to ensure the health of government employees, according to AFP.