China has banned millions of Muslims from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, it has been reported.
Government statements posted online on Wednesday warned government workers, teachers and members of the ruling Communist Party in the country’s Muslim northwest not to participate in traditional fasting or religious activities for Ramadan.
Fasting between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan – the timing of which is determined by the moon and this year started on June 29 – is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
But the Communist Party has for years restricted fasting, particularly in the Xinjiang region in the northwest, which is mainly Muslim.
Home to the Uighur minority, the region often sees deadly clashes between Uighurs and state security forces.
Authorities blame separatist Muslim Uighurs, but Uighur leaders deny they are behind the attacks.
Activists have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat from Uighur separatists to justify a crackdown on their religious and cultural freedoms.
The website of a local party committee in the county of Zhaosu said party cadres at a forestry bureau signed a pledge to “firmly resist fasting”, AFP reported.
A school also said on its website it would prevent teachers and students from fasting, while the state-run Bozhou Radio and TV university said on its website it would “enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities”.
“We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast,” it added.
Chinese authorities have reportedly encouraged Uighurs to eat free meals and have inspected homes to check if the fast was being observed.
China has in the past said restrictions on fasting were meant to ensure the health of government employees, according to AFP.