The Chinese government has been accused of implementing a campaign to weaken the Muslim religion in the restive Western province of Xinjiang after it demanded shops and restaurants sell cigarettes and alcohol.
Radio Free Asia has reported on the backlash after an official notice appeared in the Laskuy township of Hotan (Hetian in Chinese) county on April 29. The government-issued edict commanded supermarkets and restaurants to stock five different brands of tobacco and alcohol products and promote them with “eye-catching displays”. Businesses who failed to abide the decree within three days would “see their shops sealed off, their business suspended, and legal action pursued against them.”
While the CCP justified the regulations on the basis of proving “greater convenience to the public”, some believe the move is part of a campaign to undermine the Muslim religion in the region, which is dominated by the Uighur ethnic group, traditional adherents to Islam. In recent years, tobacco and alcohol products have been spurned by many Muslim Uighurs due to religious taboo. According to the report, the Chinese government has perceived their abstinence as an act of religious extremism. Mindful of the correlation between religious sentiment and stability, the CCP has launched a series of “strike hard” campaigns in order to dissipate religious zeal. While China views this as essential to countering nationalist sentiment and retaining control in the troublesome province, James Leibold, an expert on China’s ethnic policies at an Australian university, argues that cracking down on misconstrued signs of radicalism and rebellion, such as beards and burkhas, “only serves to inflame ethno-national tensions” and continues to alienate the Uighur community.
Last week, violence broke out at a halal cake shop in Qinghai after Muslims discovered pork sausages and ham in a delivery van.
By Liam Bourke