Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang region have banned Muslim Uyghurs from fasting during Ramadan, and curbed other Muslim activities including visits to mosques.
The outright ban on fasting during Ramadan has been applied to Muslim officials, both active and retired, and students under the age of 18. The rest of the Uyghur population (around nine million) is to be discouraged from fasting. According to the National, a statement on the Xinjiang government website encourages "party leaders to bring 'gifts' of food to local village leaders to ensure that they were eating during Ramadan."
The Uyghurs are an ethnic Muslim minority in the north west of China, practicing Sunni Islam. The group claim they are persecuted and repressed, with their religion under threat. Chinese authorities blame them for sectarian violence in their fight for separatism. Dilshat Rexit of the exiled rights group World Uyghur Congress, warned the fasting ban will encourage further Uyghur resistance against Chinse authorities. He said "By banning fasting during Ramadan, China is using administrative methods to force the Uyghur people to eat in an effort to break the fasting."
Earlier this week the BBC reported China jailed 20 Uyghur Muslims in Xianjiang province on charges of terrorism and separatism. They were charged with promoting religious extremism and of plotting holy war. The Security Council Committee has linked Xianjiang Uygurs with the terrorist group Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) whom it accuses of having close links with the Taliban and al Qaeda.