Recently in Uyghur minority group Category
By Radio FREE Asia
August 08, 2012
Uyghurs are punished for religious activities deemed illegal by the authorities.
Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang are continuing to punish those who hold "unauthorized" religious events during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to an exile group.
As Muslim Uyghurs entered their third week of dawn-to-dusk fasting and prayers, a spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress said that authorities in the southern Xinjiang city of Aksu had detained seven people for "illegal religious activities" and fined nearly 100 for unauthorized study of the Quran.
Authorities in Aksu's Kuchar county staged a number of raids since the beginning of August, detaining seven Uyghurs for "incitement to illegal gathering and illegal recitations of the Quran," spokesman Dilxat Raxit said in an interview.
He said that nearly 100 Uyghurs--including women and children--had been fined between 50 yuan (U.S.$7.80) and 3,000 yuan (U.S.$471) for studying the Islamic holy book in unauthorized sessions since Ramadan began at the end of July.
"During Ramadan, the authorities have been targeting Uyghur people's beliefs in an increasingly provocative manner," Raxit said.
"This will cause greater friction leading directly to more unrest."
He said that authorities in Kuchar county alone had reported four cases of "illegal religious activities" linked to 187 illegal religious publications and 35 media disks on official websites.
"Officials at a number of local government departments that we contacted have denied the detention of Uyghurs in Kuchar county or the fining of almost 100 people," Raxit said.
He added that security personnel in military uniforms had detained 22 Uyghurs at checkpoints set up on national highways near the Silk Road cities of Kashgar and Hotan in the first week of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Raxit said his group had received reports of 13 Uyghurs from Aksu and Kashgar being detained in the regional capital Urumqi in the first week, with a further two detained in Kashgar's Maigaiti county for carrying unauthorized religious materials that "harmed China's unity" in the second week.
Calls to the Kuchar county police department went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
He said that curbs remained on Uyghurs in Urumqi, which recently saw heightened tensions around the third anniversary of deadly ethnic riots in July 2009.
He said mosques in Urumqi were being guarded inside and out by armed security personnel, and that Muslims attending Friday prayers had to show identity cards on entering and leaving the mosques, as well as submit to searches by armed guards.
He said the city's mosques were closed up at all other times.
An official who answered the phone at the Xinjiang regional minority religious affairs department said that no one was banned from studying the Quran, and that no one would be fined for doing so.
"No one is fined for studying the Quran," the official said. "They can read it as and when they want."
But he appeared to imply that Uyghurs were limited to reading religious materials approved by the government.
"The Quran is fine, and religious materials that have been published according to regulations are fine too," the official said.
However, an official who answered the phone at a mosque in Urumqi denied that the mosques were closed except for Friday prayers.
"That's not the case," the official said. "They are open and operating all day."
"There aren't any security people here, and there are five prayers every day."
However, an announcement on the Tianshan district government website detailed a number of security measures aimed at "preventing criminal elements from harming national security and stability" on the third Friday prayers of Ramadan on Aug. 3.
It said the government would be targeting anyone who used religious activities "to incite [the public] mood, or to create social conflict," and called on district officials to "carry out propaganda work in support of harmony and stability inside places of worship."
In the Tianshan district's Wulabo community, teams of officials had been sent to carry out spot checks on mosques in the district, and to register the names of anyone coming in or out, checking their bags for fear of terrorist attacks, the report said.
Uyghur civil servants and members of China's ruling Communist Party have long been banned from fasting during Ramadan, which is due to end in the three-day feast of Eid al-Fitr around Aug. 20 this year.
The authorities, wary of instability and the threat to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's grip on power, often link Uyghurs in Xinjiang to violent separatist groups, including the Al-Qaeda terror network.
In October, Xinjiang courts sentenced four Uyghurs to death for violence in Kashgar and Hotan in July 2011 which left 32 people dead.
Uyghurs say they are subjected to political control and persecution for seeking meaningful autonomy in their homeland and are denied economic opportunities stemming from Beijing's rapid development of the troubled region.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
By Rachel Vandenbrink | Radio FREE Asia
July 30, 2012
The US State Department hits out at China for its policies on Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in an annual report on global religious freedom.
China has suffered a sharp decline in religious freedom while Burma has made little progress on the issue despite democratic reforms, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report to American lawmakers.
It said that abuse of religious freedom remained a concern in Vietnam, including cases involving arrests, detentions, and convictions of religious practitioners.
The State Department's 2011 Religious Freedom Report that reviewed the situation across the globe last year slammed China, saying there was a "marked deterioration" in Beijing's respect for and protection of religious rights in the world's most populous nation.
It cited increased restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns and clampdowns on religious practices ahead of sensitive anniversaries, as well as "severe" repression of Muslim Uyghurs in the volatile Xinjiang region.
Burma, which ushered in a new, nominally civilian government in 2011, "took steps" during the year toward overcoming its legacy of "intense religious oppression," but continued to impose restrictions and monitor meetings by religious organizations, it said.
In Vietnam, authorities held religious prisoners, refused to allow churches to register, and harassed believers, the report said, amid calls by rights groups to President Barack Obama's administration to re-designate the country as a "Country of Particular Concern"--a label that the U.S. government gives to countries for ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.
At a briefing on the release of the report, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious freedom Suzan Johnson Cook said that freedom of religion went "hand in hand" with freedoms of expression, speech, and assembly, and that governments in Asia and around the world had "misused" laws to restrict freedom of all three.
"Religious freedom is often the bellwether for other human rights," including freedom of expression, speech, and assembly, she said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the "global picture" for religious freedom, with over a billion people worldwide living under governments that "systematically" repress people's beliefs, was "sobering."
"When it comes to this human right, this key feature of stable, secure, peaceful societies, the world is sliding backwards," she said, speaking at the Carnegie Center for International Peace after the report's release.
Chinese authorities' restrictions on religious practices among Tibetans and Uyghurs were "severe," the report said.
The State Department placed blame on authorities for stoking tensions that led to the recent wave of Tibetans setting themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule.
"Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011," the report said.
Further self-immolations this year--which brought the current total to 44 since 2009--continue to demonstrate Tibetans' "desperation" under China's rule, Johnson Cook said.
In China's far northwestern Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uyghur group, religious restrictions were closely tied to political repression, the report said.
The government's concern over "separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism" had contributed to restrictions on Muslims, with authorities "failing to distinguish between peaceful religious practice and criminal or terrorist activities," it said.
Outside of Tibet and Xinjiang, Chinese officials restricted the activities of both registered and unregistered groups, including members of underground Christian "house churches" and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the report said.
Some Falun Gong adherents had reportedly been held in ankang psychiatric institutions, while authorities had raided house churches and confiscated Bibles, it said.
Individuals had been harassed or detained for assembling for worship, expressing their beliefs in public and private, and publishing religious texts, it added.
The U.S. had raised issues concerning house churches, Falun Gong, Uyghur Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists, during talks at the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in Washington last week, Johnson Cook said.
"That's a continuing conversation and we will not let up," she said.
By Radio FREE Asia
27 July 2012
Chinese authorities require Uyghurs to declare loyalty to the State to qualify for government aid.
Authorities in northwestern China are requiring ethnic Uyghurs from impoverished communities to sign pledges affirming their allegiance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party and curtailing their religious freedom in exchange for welfare money, according to a Uyghur media organization in exile.
RFA's Uyghur service obtained a document from the Turkey-based Istiqlaltv.com which is written in Chinese and Uyghur and which lists a number of conditions aid recipients must honor to qualify for receiving a monthly stipend from the Chinese government.
The document, which Istiqlaltv.com says was distributed in primarily Uyghur-populated areas of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, such as the southwestern cities of Hotan, Aksu, and Kashgar, offers a "basic living fee" to unemployed residents of 200-300 yuan (U.S. $31-47) per month.
Residents of the areas typically earn as much as 6,500 yuan (U.S. $1,000) a year, according to local sources.
To qualify for the welfare, applicants must sign the pledge, promising to "firmly uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, follow regulations, and be a law-abiding citizen."
In addition, the document requires the predominantly Muslim Uyghur applicants to "refrain from engaging in any illegal religious activities and from keeping illegal religious materials at home."
Applicants must promise that neither they nor their family members will cover their faces in public for religious reasons and that they will refuse to host guests who cover their faces. Most Uyghur women cover their heads with scarves, while more religious adherents will cover everything but their eyes.
And lastly, the welfare applicants must pledge that if they witness illegal religious activities or women covering their faces, they should "report it to the local authorities immediately."
"If I violate any of the above four regulations, I agree to stop receiving my [government-provided] basic living fee," the document states, above a section requiring the applicant's signature and date of application.
A Uyghur source in exile, who now lives in Turkey and who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that no previous government controlling the Xinjiang region, including the nationalist Kuomintang, the Manchurian Qing Empire, or any former warlord rulers, had ever used such a tactic to "subjugate" the local populace.
"The Chinese fear the Uyghurs because we have the moral high ground," he said, reflecting commonly held views that the Uyghur community has long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness under Chinese rule.
"They believe that we will rise up with great determination because of this, so they are aiming to destroy the religious traditions of the local people."
The source said that many Uyghur communities in Xinjiang have little to show in exchange for Beijing's ambitious programs to develop China's vast northwestern frontier.
"They have already taken our land, economy, and our language. Now they will take our beliefs."
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
By Radio FREE Asia
05 June 2012
Chinese authorities in Urumqi detain a man who posted information about the mysterious death of a Uyghur boy.
Chinese authorities have detained a Uyghur man for tweeting "false information" about a boy who family sources say died in police custody under suspicious circumstances in the ethnically troubled Xinjiang region.
Pamir Yasin, a resident of Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, was placed under 15 days' administrative detention, the Xinjiang government news website Tianshannet.com reported, after he tweeted information on the May 20 death of a boy studying at an unsanctioned religious school in Korla.
Sources close to the family told RFA that 11-year-old Mirzahid Amanullah Shahyari died in the custody of Korla police, who told his mother the boy had committed suicide under their watch and forced her to bury the body immediately.
Official Chinese media reports, however, said that he died at a hospital after being beaten by fellow students at the illegal religious school.
The case has drawn strong condemnation from the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) which called Mirzahid's treatment "barbaric."
The case was "riddled with many violations of fundamental international human rights law, as well as reminiscent of the persecution that Uyghurs face on a day-to-day basis," it said.
Pamir Yasin had written on his Sina Weibo microblog eight days after Mirzahid's death that the boy had died in police custody.
The authorities accused him of using "distorted information" derived from foreign websites as a basis for his claim, Tianshannet.com said over the weekend.
It said the information he had republished and discussed online was "connected to hostile outside forces that maliciously fabricate [and] distorted facts."
WUC Spokesman Dilxat Raxit condemned the punishment meted out to Pamir Yasin, accusing the authorities of covering up the beating of the boy in detention and spreading "distorted information" of their own.
Pamir Yasin's detention follows the jailing of several Uyghurs for online activities since July 2009 violence that rocked the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. They were all sentenced on charges of "endangering state security."
Pamir Yasin was a contributor to the Uighurbiz.net website, a site on Uyghur news and issues founded by Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti that recently re-opened after being shut down by the authorities.
According to posts on the website, Pamir Yasin had gotten the information about Mirzahid's death from reports by RFA's Uyghur service.
Information is strictly controlled in Xinjiang, where authorities shut down the Internet in the entire region for ten months following the July 2009 violence.
Pamir Yasin is being held under Article 47 of China's Public Security Administration Punishment Law, which allows authorities to detain citizens without trial for up to 15 days for "inciting ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination or publishing ethnically discriminatory or insulting content in printed materials or online."
Death in custody
Sources close to Mirzahid's family continue to question the circumstances under which he died.
They said Mirzahid, from Nurbagh township, Shayar county, in western Xinjiang's Aqsu prefecture, was first taken into custody along with his teacher and three other students in a late-night crackdown on their forbidden Islamic study group.
The next day, Korla police called his mother, Rizwangul, in Nurbagh and told her Mirzahid had killed himself by hitting his head against a wall while in their custody, the sources said.
When Mirzahid's body was returned to her the next day, she found it had blood on one side of the head, bruises as if he had been beaten with a stick, and a line on his neck as if he had been choked, the sources said.
When she began washing the body to prepare it for burial, Shayar police came to her home and prevented others from visiting.
Police told her she must bury him immediately without speaking to others about his death.
She was told to inform those who inquired about him that he had gone to study at a technology school in Urumqi and fallen off of a building, the sources said.
On May 22, authorities forced her to bury him without reciting prayers from the Koran, they said.
The following day, police came to Nurbagh again and took Mirzahid's uncle, his father's younger brother, into custody, saying he had passed on information to foreign media, the sources said.
Mirzahid's mother had sent him to study in the unsanctioned school in Korla because she did not want him to attend public school, the sources said.
Religious activity is strictly controlled in the Xinjiang region, home to nine million mostly Muslim Uyghurs, and children under 18 are forbidden from receiving a religious education or attending mosque.
Mirzahid had first been sent to another school in Hotan when he was seven years old, but the teacher sent him home again out of safety concerns, the source said.
Mirzahid's father, Amanullah Shahyari, has been living in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the past 11 years.
From there, he had applied for the other members of the family to move to Turkey under a program for Uyghurs instituted following the July 5, 2009 ethnic violence in Urumqi.
Two months ago, the Turkish government granted Mirzahid, his mother, and older brother Miradil permission to live there.
But the three had not been able to leave China because authorities had taken their identity cards and would not allow them to get passports, sources said.
Reported by Mihray Abdilim and Mamatjan Juma for RFA's Uyghur service. Translated by Mihray Abdilim and Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
By Eric Pfeiffer | The Sideshow | via UNCENSORED yahoo!news
March 9, 2012
Most people in the world who get into trouble on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites fail to exercise a bit of healthy self-censorship. A new Carnegie Mellon University study has identified the 295 words and phrases the Chinese government looks for when it steps in and forcibly blocks communication between its own citizens.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the list is home to known controversial terms like "Falun Gong" but also includes "iodized salt." And strangely enough, they both have become hot button search items.
The Falun Gong is a dissident religious group labeled a cult by the Chinese government, while iodized salt is one of the most common household items in the modern world. But it was also part of a rampant rumor in China after last year's nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, in which people falsely claimed that iodized salt could reduce radiation poisoning.
"The Chinese government came in, put their foot down and said don't believe these rumors. After that, iodized salt became a sensitive topic and it was highly likely a message would be deleted if it discussed salt," said David Bamman, the study's co-author, in an interview with the Gazette. The study results were first published in the online journal First Monday.
The study's authors based their findings on data collected from the Chinese micro-blogging site Sina Weibo. While Twitter has a purported 300 million users worldwide, Sina Weibo has 300 million in China alone. Even with the rampant Chinese government censorship, Sina Weibo's stock has soared recently with news that 50 million of its 300 million users have joined in the past three months alone, making it the third most popular site in China.
The study looked at more than 57 million messages posted on Sina Weibo during a three-month period last year.
When breaking down the messages to match with the popular political and social terms, the research team found that 212,583 out of 1.3 million checked messages, roughly 16 percent, had been deleted by the Chinese government. And 54 percent of all messages sent from Tibet had been deleted.
Study co-author Noah Smith said most examinations of Chinese Internet censorship look at the sites the government has blocked outright. So the authors instead wanted to process a hard statistical analysis of what the Chinese government was doing to censor content on sites it lets the public at large access.
A 2005 Open Net study declared that China has the most-sophisticaed level of Internet censorhsip in the world.
"The rise of domestic Chinese micro-blogging sites has provided a unique opportunity to systematically study content censorship in detail," Smith told the Gazette.
The Chinese government is not shy about its Internet censorship, even launching an official campaign known as the Golden Shield Project, or "Great Firewall." The government has announced that as of March 16, it will require all Sina Weibo users to publicly use their real names on all accounts.