The Chinese government is pushing efforts to ensure that religious groups in China adhere to the socialist principles of the ruling Communist Party.
President Xi Jinping reportedly gave the directive to officials during his recent four-day visit to China’s Xinjiang region, which concluded on Saturday.
According to state-run Xinhua News Agency, Xi urged local officials to make “enhanced efforts” to “uphold the principle
that Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation, and to adapt religions to a socialist society.”
Xi highlighted the importance of religious followers staying closely united with the Communist Party and the government.
“China, a country with ethnic unity, is invincible and will have a bright future, and our Second Centenary Goal is bound to be achieved and so is the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi was quoted as saying.
He also stressed strengthening different ethnic groups’ identification with Chinese culture, the nation and the Communist Party through education and guidance.
“We have formulated ethnic theories and policies characterized by ethnic equality and unity, regional ethnic autonomy, and shared development and prosperity, so that all ethnic groups have enjoyed equality, unity and progress in real sense under the socialist system,” the Chinese president was quoted as saying.
Xi dubbed Xinjiang a “core area and a hub” in China’s development program, which consists of building ports, railways and power stations meant to connect the country to Central Asia and Eastern Europe nations.
Xi’s Xinjiang visit came amid heavy criticism from the U.S. and several European countries that oppose China’s oppression of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region.
China has maintained that the rights of its citizens, including those of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, are protected.
However, in the last several years, Chinese security forces have been accused of aggressively quelling protests by Uyghur Muslims over settlements from Han Chinese originating outside the province.
In May, leaked confidential documents purportedly showed new information about the detainment of the Uyghurs, which Chinese officials have dubbed a fabrication. However, authorities maintained that the camps are “about countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism, not about human rights or religion.”