SHAFAQNA – A few months after banning face-veil or burqa in restive Xinjiang province, where the Uighur Muslims have a majority, China has amended its criminal law stipulating that forcing others to wear “extremist garments” is a crime.
“Anyone who violently forces others to wear such garments will be put under surveillance, detained or face a maximum of three years in prison,” reported the state-run Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid printed in Chinese and English, UCA News reported on Monday, November 2.
The new rules were declared as part of the amendments to the Criminal Law announced by China’s highest court on Sunday, November 1.
The amendments included preparing an attack, inciting terrorism, using extremism to break the law, carrying goods for terrorism purposes and wearing clothing or logos linked to religious extremism.
“The key to fighting terrorist attacks is to root the extremists out, so I’m glad to see the revised Criminal Law has highlighted this,” Ma Pinyan, a researcher at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.
“The law also provides us with the legal basis to fight extremism and I believe it will be more effective.”
Last January, Xinjiang issued a ban on burqas, urging residents to inform on women wearing burqas and young men with “large beards.”
T-shirts and flags featuring the Islamic crescent, also the symbol of the pro-independence East Turkestan flag, are also banned.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has tightened restrictions against religious groups deemed a threat to China’s sovereignty, national security or Communist Party power.
Authorities in Zhejiang province have removed at least 1,200 church crosses since the end of 2013.
The new rules sparked criticism on social media websites.
“Such deliberately vague wording leaves judicial practice inoperable,” wrote one user on micro-blogging site Weibo, in rare criticism.
Uighur Muslims are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Xinjiang, which activists call East Turkestan, has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
Last December, China banned the wearing of Islamic veiled robes in public in Urumqi, the capital of the province of Xinjiang.
The law in the predominantly Muslim region came as Beijing intensified its so-called campaign against “religious extremism” that it blames for recent violence.
Earlier in 2014, Xinjiang banned the practicing of religion in government buildings, as well as wearing clothes or logos associated with religious extremism.
Last May, Muslim shops and restaurants in a Chinese village in northwestern Xinjiang were ordered to sell cigarettes and alcohol or face closure.