Source: Agence France-Presse –
A city in China’s mainly Muslim Xinjiang region has banned people with large beards or Islamic clothing from travelling on public buses, state media said, prompting outrage from an overseas rights group.
Authorities in Karamay banned people wearing hijabs, niqabs, burqas or clothing with the Islamic star and crescent symbol from taking local buses, the Karamay Daily reported.
The ban also covered “large beards”, the paper said, adding: “Those who do not co-operate with inspection teams will be handled by police.”
Xinjiang, a resource-rich region that abuts central Asia, is the homeland of China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority and has been hit by a wave of clashes between locals and security forces that have killed hundreds in the past year.
China has blamed several deadly attacks on civilians outside the region in recent months on “terrorists” seeking independence for the region.
Rights groups say restrictions on Uighurs’ religious and cultural freedoms have stoked tensions.
In July China banned students and government staff from Ramadan fasting, while officials have also tried to encourage locals in Xinjiang not to wear Islamic veils.
The Karamay restrictions are “a typical discriminatory measure … which add to an increasing confrontation between Uighurs and Beijing”, Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress (WUC), told Agence France-Presse.
Chinese state media said on Sunday that nearly 100 people including 59 “terrorists” had been killed in an attack in Xinjiang the previous week.
The report came days after the government-appointed head of the largest mosque in China, in one of the region’s oldest cities, Kashgar, was killed after leading morning prayers.
China announced a year-long terrorism crackdown following a deadly bombing attack in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in May, and hundreds of people have been arrested on accusations of terrorism. Security on public transport has also been tightened.
The Karamay ban would apply for the duration of a sports competition ending on 20 August, the report said.
Authorities in Urumqi in July banned bus passengers from carrying a range of items including cigarette lighters and yogurt, state media said.