BEIJING: Chinese authorities were ordering the Muslims in the country to hand over their prayer mats and copies of the Holy Quran or else face punishment, it has been reported.
The officials in the Xinjiang province had allegedly warned members of the Uyghur ethnic minority that they must surrender religious items on pain of “harsh punishments”.
The Chinese officials explaining the step, said that this is a part of China’s “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress, told Radio Free Asia (RFA): “We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion.
“They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren’t handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments.”
China dismissed as “groundless rumours” the reports that authorities were seizing copies of the Quran and prayer rugs in Xinjiang as part of a crackdown against extremists in the restive province.
Asked about media reports circulating in the province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that the situation in Xinjiang was “sound” and local people there are working and living in peace. “We hope relevant parties refrain from making groundless allegations and rumours,” he said.
Reports in the official media said that the Chinese officials had tightened security measures in Xinjiang, apprehending militants of the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) ahead of the ruling Communist Party of China’s meeting starting on October 18 in which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to get a second term.
Officials have installed new high-tech body security scanner for road security checks to enhance security ahead of the Congress.
Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan, is located in China’s north western region.
The province has seen protests by majority Uygur Muslims over increasing settlements of the Han community from other parts of China.