The Chinese authorities had detained more than 170 Uyghur Muslims for questioning after they offered prayers without permission during the occasion of Eid-al-Adha (Qurban Heyt), reported Radio Free Asia (RFA). The incident took place in Aksu city in Aykol township in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Between July 20-23, the authorities had permitted only those above the age of 50 years to take part in prayer services during Eid. In a bid to avoid questions of human rights abuses, the Chinese government opened a few shuttered mosques and allowed the elderly to pray to present a staged scenario of ‘normalcy’ in the region. According to a senior police officer, about 170 Uyghurs under the age of 50 years also offered prayers violating orders. As a result, they were held in custody for flouting the Eid guidelines. He did not reveal whether they were detained in re-education camps/ detention centres.
While speaking to RFA, the officer emphasised, “I believe there are more than 170 people. We told older people they could pray and young people they could not — those under 50.” He added that the police conducted raids, street patrols, and home searches to control the actions of Uyghur Muslims. The cops checked the identification cards of those who attended Eid prayers to ensure that they were over 50 years old. Anyone with discrepancies in their date of birth on IDs or found lying was made to wear black hoods or held in the police station for interrogation.
Chinese authorities use ‘neighbourhood spies’ against Uyghur Muslims
Radio Free Asia reported that the cops did not storm into mosques to verify the age of those attending religious prayers but instead employed ‘neighbourhood spies’ to check if someone secretly prayed at their residence. The spies are responsible for providing information about 10 households that fall within their jurisdiction. RFA earlier found that only those Uyghurs, who were above the age of 60, were permitted to pray in the Atush city in Xinjiang province since 2017.
While confirming the development, a security officer from Atushi city said, “We say that people who are very old can pray, older men — people who are older than 60. They don’t even allow young people to go into the mosques. If people break the law we turn them over to the village brigade. The village brigade takes them for re-education. Then we notify the family over the telephone.” RFA highlighted that the restrictions were aimed at preventing chaos and political instability owing to protests during such religious events.
1.8 million Uyghurs remain in detention camps
Although XUAR is home to about 12 million Muslims, it is believed that about 1.8 million of them are held in detention camps since 2017. Often dubbed as ‘vocational centres’, the Chinese authorities claim to use such camps to prevent religious extremism in XUAR. Reportedly, at least one person from every Uyghur family is under some kind of detention, thus giving their relatives and family members little incentive to celebrate holidays. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has permitted local townships to impose their own regulations during the annual Islamic festival.
Uyghur detention camps run by China
The Xinjiang autonomous region in China is facing the worst kind of cultural and ethnic genocide. There is a long history of dissonance between the indigenous ethnic Uyghur and Chinese authorities. Chinese authorities have been running ‘re-education’ camps where millions of Uyghurs are made to denounce their ways of life, religious beliefs and practices. China is facing criticism and worldwide condemnation over its unkind and harsh treatment of the Uyghur Muslims. However, China has aggressively refuted allegations made by the Western countries on its daunting persecution of the Muslim minority and claim it to be a conspiracy against the nation.