RELIGION

Xinjiang city bans Muslim clothing and large beards on public buses

Uygur rights group slams measures as 'discriminatory', as China continues to restrict ethnic group's practices amid spate of violence in the region

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 11:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 6:26pm
AFP

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A city in Xinjiang 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 covers “large beards”, the paper said, adding: “Those who do not cooperate with inspection teams will be handled by police.”

Xinjiang, a resource-rich region which abuts central Asia, is the homeland of China’s mostly Muslim Uygur minority and has been hit by a wave of clashes between locals and security forces which have killed hundreds in the past year.

Beijing has blamed several deadly attacks on civilians outside the region in recent months on “terrorists” seeking independence for the region.

But rights groups say restrictions on Uygurs’ religious and cultural freedoms have stoked tensions.

Beijing last month enforced a ban on 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 Uygurs and Beijing,” Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uygur Congress (WUC), said in a statement.

State media said on Sunday that nearly 100 people including 59 “terrorists” had been killed in an attack in Xinjiang last 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.

Beijing announced a year-long terrorism crackdown following a deadly bombing attack in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in May, and hundreds of alleged terrorists have been arrested.

Security on public transport has also been tightened.

The Karamay ban applies during a sports competition ending on August 20, the report said.

Authorities in Urumqi last month banned bus passengers from carrying a range of items including cigarette lighters and yogurt, state media said.