China’s ethnic Hui Muslim minority recent ban on religious education a sign of curbs to come

Vastavam web: For some in China’s ethnic Hui Muslim minority here, a recent ban on young people engaging in religious education in mosques is an unwelcome interference in how they lead their lives.Their big fear is the Chinese government may be bringing in measures in this northwestern province of Gansu that are similar to some of those used in the crackdown on Uighur Muslims in the giant Xinjiang region further to the west.But in January, education officials from the local government in Guanghe county, which is a heavily-Muslim area, banned children from attending religious education during the Lunar New Year break. That lasts for several weeks around the week-long public holiday period that started on Thursday.

It is unclear if the ban, similar to those used by the authorities in the Uighur communities, will continue after the holiday, but it appears to conform to new national regulations that took effect on Feb. 1 aiming to increase oversight over religion.Such bans had been conveyed verbally in recent years, Li told Reuters, but implementation was uneven and often ignored. The more forceful rollout this year shows authorities are serious about enforcement, he said.The Linxia prefecture government, which oversees Linxia city and Guanghe, did not provide details of the policy, but said China’s constitution required separation of religion and education.

Repeated phone calls to the Guanghe education bureau’s propaganda department went unanswered.China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs did not respond to a request for comment, but the State Council Information Office said China amply guarantees citizens’ right to religious freedom under law, including children. “While safeguarding all ethnic group’s religious freedom and other lawful interests according to law, China will also resolutely prevent and severely crackdown on the use of religion to carry out illegal activities,” it said.