Police watch as Uighur Muslims leave the Id Kah Mosque after morning prayers in the old town of Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Photo: AFP/ Johannes Eisele

The local government in the largely Muslim autonomous territory of Xinjiang in northwest China has stated it will crack down on “activities that blur the boundary between religion and secular life and encourage extremism,” Reuters reported on October 10.

During a meeting on October 8, local leaders said they would also require government officials and Communist Party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism and speak Mandarin Chinese rather than the local Turkic dialects in public.

International human rights organizations have criticized China for detaining as many as one million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, while Beijing claims it is only cracking down on extremists and separatism in the region.

Chinese citizens are in theory free to practice any religion, but, as Reuters points out, “they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.”

In September, Beijing issued new draft guidelines to crack down on “illegal online dissemination of religious information.” The crackdown has also affected Christian groups such as the non-recognized but growing movement of “house churches,” where people meet and worship at home.

That campaign has also, as Asia Times reported on September 17, spilled over into neighboring Myanmar where the China-allied ethnic armed group the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has destroyed “unauthorized” churches and detained local preachers.

Only churches and church workers recognized by the UWSA will be allowed to function in the area under its control, which is adjacent to China’s Yunnan province.

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