China Begins Jailing Muslims Who Don't Integrate with Local Culture
Told to eat pork and drink alcohol - both forbidden in Islam - for Chinese Lunar New Year
Authorities in China are forcing Muslims to integrate into Chinese local culture and imprisoning those who refuse to comply due to their religious beliefs.
As part of the crackdown, Muslims in China's far west region of Xinjiang are being forced to join celebrations for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday by eating pork and drinking alcohol at local events, residents have claimed.
Muslim residents in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture said they were invited to Chinese New Year dinners where traditional pork and alcohol were served, both of which are forbidden in Islam.
Chinese officials threatened to send them to imprison them in "re-education camps" if they refused to participate, which included consuming pork and alcohol, according to a report by Radio Free Asia.
Authorities were also seen delivering pork to Muslim households with strict instruction to join the festivities.
Photos sent to RFA showing a Chinese official in Yining city visiting Muslim homes and distributing raw pork on Monday, the eve of the Year of the Pig.
People were also forced to decorate their homes with Chinese New Year decorations such as hanging red lanterns and couplets outside.
According to the Daily Mail, both pork and alcohol are forbidden in Islam, and the Chinese New Year is not usually celebrated by Muslims.
"Kazakh people in Xinjiang have never [eaten pork]," one unnamed resident told RFA.
"Starting last year, some people have been forced to eat pork so they can celebrate a festival belonging to the Han Chinese."
"Kazakhs don't celebrate Spring Festival," a Kazakh woman named Kesay told RFA.
"Our main festivals are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
"Spring Festival is for Han Chinese and people who believe in Buddhism."
"If we won't put up the couplets or hang up lanterns, they say we are two-faced, and they send us to re-education camps," she said, adding that officials had begun delivering pork to around 80 percent of Kazakh households in Savan county since the end of 2018.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exile group World Uighur Congress, said they have received similar reports.
"According to our information, the Chinese government is stepping up its campaign to assimilate Uighurs into Han Chinese culture," he said.
"They are forcing Uighurs to celebrate Lunar New Year, to put up decorative couplets."
"They are also forcing Uighurs to drink alcohol, to show that they don't subscribe to 'extreme religious beliefs' and don't disrespect traditional Chinese culture."
Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang, according to previous UN estimates, prompting an international outcry.
The region is home to more than 10 million ethnic Uighurs.
Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings, and food deprivation.
Former detainees have previously claimed they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol as punishment inside the camps.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, the chairman of Xinjiang's government, Shohrat Zakir, told the official Xinhua news agency in October that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uighurs.
A previous report published by a Christian NGO, ChinaAid, claimed that Muslims in Xinjiang had been forced to take part in new year celebrations in February last year.
Last October, officials in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang launched a campaign against halal products.
Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.