By Courtney Trenwith
Muslim Uighur man is sentenced to 6 years in jail for ‘causing trouble’; wife given 2 years for wearing a veil
A Chinese Muslim man has reportedly been sentenced to six years’ jail for growing a beard and “picking quarrels and causing trouble”.
The man’s wife also was jailed for two years for admitting to wearing a veil, state-run newspaper Xinjiang Economic Daily said.
The sentences were handed down in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region where almost half of the population is Muslim, primarily Sunni Uighurs.
The Uighur man had reportedly grown a beard since 2010 and encouraged his wife to wear veils to cover herself. While such dress is not explicitly outlawed in China, there have been campaigns in Kashgar to ban “outdated” religious dress, online news site Quartz reported.
Officials have passed similar bans in other cities: fully covering robes for women are illegal in the provincial capital of Urumqi and neither men with beards or women with headscarves can ride buses in the city of Karamay, according to Quartz.
A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress advocacy organisation, Dilxat Raxit, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) the sentences were “absurd” and "typical of the political persecution" faced by Uighurs.
"This is a case that would not happen in any other country in the world," Raxit said. "It is unacceptable and absurd. It exposes China's hostile attitude and crisis of governance.
"If a Chinese person grows a beard, it is a personal fashion he is allowed to choose freely. If a Uighur grows a beard, he is a religious extremist.”
China has crackdown on visible signs of Islam in recent years, arguing it is to prevent a feared separatist movement.
Al Jazeera reported that Chinese state media removed reports of the sentences following international criticism that they were another example of China’s repression of Uighur religious freedom.