The Turkish Foreign Ministry has conveyed today its “deep concerns” to the Chinese ambassador to Turkey after the country reportedly banned Ramadan fasting in certain parts of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for party members, civil servants, students, and teachers.
The ministry’s statement said, “Turkish public opinion has been worried to hear news that Uygur Turks, living in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of People’s Republic of China (PRC), were banned from fasting during Ramadan and other worshipping,” according to its latest press release.
“We have conveyed our deep concerns to the Ankara ambassador of the PRC regarding reports coming from China and said that we have utmost respect to its territorial integrity, stability, peace, and security,” the statement added.
The Chinese local government in Xinjiang issued the ban at the beginning of Ramadan, which began on June 18. Muslims around the world observe the holy month by abstaining from eating and drinking during the day.
The decision contradicts the notion of freedom of religion guaranteed by both Chinese constitutional law and international law.
"China is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramadan approaches. The faith of the Uighurs has been highly politicised, and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance," World Uyghur Congress spokesperson Dilxat Raxit said in a recent statement quoted by Reuters.
The Chinese Communist Party, which founded and rules the one-party state, has also recently ordered Uighurs to stock and sell alcohol and cigarettes in attractive displays despite the fact that many Muslims consider it a sin to do so as it contradicts their religious beliefs.
The Uighurs are subjected to discrimination in many respects including being prevented from practising their faith openly, the banning of beards and headscarves, and being prevented from teaching their children the Quran. Officials and people younger than 18 are banned from participating in religious activities.
Rights groups believe Beijing is trying to systematically erase the region's Islamic identity but the Uighur Muslims reportedly say that the restrictions have backfired and they have in fact become more religiously observant.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have frequently reported that Beijing is not granting religious freedom and ethnic liberties as well as basic human rights to ethno-religious minority regions.
Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, where China's repressive policies - including controls on religion and Uighur culture - have intensified.
Analysts say most of the economic benefits of the strategic region, which is crucial for China's growing energy needs, have gone to the Han Chinese - the country's biggest ethnic group - stoking resentment among the Uighurs.
The population of Xinjiang autonomous region, which is called as “East Turkestan” by the Uighurs themselves, consists of nearly 45 percent Turkic-Muslim Uighurs while ethnically Han Chinese make up almost 40 percent of the region’s total population.
China has long suffered from the effects ethnic separatism in Tibet and Xinjiang in the west and to some extent in Inner Mongolia in the north.
The US State Department released on June 25 its 2014 shedding light on China’s human rights abuses, which have increased both in Tibet and Xinjiang.