An anti-halal campaign has been launched in the capital of China’s heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang to stop everyday products like food and toothpaste from fuelling “extremism” among the ethnic Uygur population.
At a meeting on Monday in Urumqi, Communist Party leaders and cadres swore an oath to “fight a decisive battle against ‘pan-halalisation’,” according to the city’s official WeChat account.
This includes everyday products, like food and toothpaste, which are produced according to Islamic law.
China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million Uygurs in Xinjiang.
Beijing has denied it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.
The official Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” was fuelling hostility towards religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.
As part of the anti-halal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uygur head prosecutor, wrote an essay titled: “Friend, you do not need to find a halal restaurant especially for me”.
According to the WeChat post, government employees should not have any diet problems and work canteens are to be changed so that officials can try all kinds of cuisine.
The Urumqi Communist Party leaders also said they would require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism, and not religion, and to speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public.
Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.
The Communist Party in August issued a revised set of regulations governing its members’ behaviour, threatening punishments or expulsion for anyone who clung to religious beliefs.