China has banned civil servants, students, and teachers in the primarily Muslim region of Xinjiang from observing Ramadan, the South China Morning Post reports. The government will ”enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities,” according to state-run Bozhou Radio.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan requires Muslims to fast from dawn until sunset. Authorities will be inspecting homes to ensure that families are not observing the fast, according to Dilxadi Rexiti, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress.
Xinjiang is inhabited by about 10.2 million Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in China, according to the country’s 2000 census. There have been many violent clashes recently between the Chinese government and the Uyghurs, some of whom want independence from China, or at least more rights.
China has called the Uyghurs religious extremists and terrorists, but as International Business Times notes, the Chinese government ”is often accused of exaggerating Uyghur’s extremism to justify its religious crackdown on the Muslim minority.”
The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, has restricted fasting in the region for years, according to Channel News Asia. It has claimed in the past that these restrictions are intended to ensure the health of government workers.