Sources revealed that officials have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Muslim families are being forced to hand in religious items including the Koran and prayer mats.
The restriction is part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign, which targets “illegal” religious items owned by mostly Muslim Uyghur.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports the operation bans “illegal” publicity, religious activities, religious teaching, and items believed to be tools of terrorism including flammable objects and knives.
Earlier this year, Xinjiang authorities started confiscating all Korans published more than five years ago. Though Uyghur Human Rights Project recently said that it is alarmed at the invasiveness of the regulations into private religious life and rejects the effect made in the new measures that people of faith should be treated as state suspects.
Director Omer Kanat said: ‘The new religious regulations demonstrate how Xi Jinping’s administration is founded on division.
‘In Xi’s China loyalty is demanded and not earned. Ethnic minorities, dissidents and people of faith present a challenge to Beijing’s vision of unquestioned allegiance to the state. ‘If these groups do not fall into line, their vilification creates a convenient scapegoat for a morally compromised government.’
Dilxat Raxit, the spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, said Muslims were instructed to hand over the Koran and related items in a broadcast by police over social media platform WeChat.
“The announcements say that people must hand in any prayer mats to the authorities, as well as any religious reading matter, including anything with the Islamic moon and star symbol on it,” said Raxit. “They are requiring people to hand in these items of their own accord.”
He said there were reports that Kashgar, Hotan and other regions had been given the same orders last week.
“They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren’t handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments.”