China’s sweeping counter-terrorism measures in recent months in the province of Xinjiang have, in effect, placed the local Islamic community of Uyghurs under a “police state”.
Members of the traditionally Muslim group have expressed that they have since been living under constant discrimination.
James Leibold, an expert on Chinese security at Australia’s La Trobe University, told the AFP that China is “essentially creating a police state of unprecedented scale.”
The Chinese government has been blaming Islamist militants and separatists for the violence and turmoil that have been ravaging the region for years.
However, rights groups have pointed out that the government’s increasingly repressive policies are causing more harm than good, as they may push some Uyghurs into extremism.
A recent report from Radio Free Asia revealed that hundreds of Uyghurs who were returning from pilgrimages abroad were arrested and jailed last week.
“There is a huge crackdown in Xinjiang,” a rights lawyer was quoted as saying.
China has reportedly ordered the courts in the region to “deal with” anyone participating in any form of “illegal religious activity.”
According to activists, the government has also made efforts to curtail Uyghur commercial and cultural activities.
Back in March, China even banned wearing burqas and ‘abnormal’ beards in Xinjiang.
The state also banned other “extremists acts” which include, “refusal to listen to government radio or watch state-produced television programs”, “denying children of having a national education”,“interfering with or sabotaging the enforcement of family planning policies”, “damaging national identity cards, household registration books or the Chinese currency on purpose” as well as “using the concept of Halal in non-food-related areas or using it to intervene in other people’s secular lives.”
Even the schools in the region take part in the cultural repression, with students reportedly being discouraged from using the traditional Arabic Muslim greeting As-Salaam Alaikum (“peace be upon you”).
The policies are reportedly in accordance with President Xi Jinping’s call for a “great wall of iron” in Xinjiang during the annual meeting of China’s parliament earlier this year.
A group of Uyghurs, who claimed to be a part of the Islamic State group, have earlier threatened they would return to China and “shed blood like rivers.”