China has ordered residents in the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province to report to authorities all religious activities including circumcision, weddings and funerals as part of efforts to beef-up security, state media reported today.
The requirement for residents to report religious activities to local residential committees in some places in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region will be expanded to the whole region, state-run Global Times reported.
Xinjiang has established religious committees and residential communities to manage religious practises since September, requiring local residents to report their religious activities including circumcision, weddings and funerals, La Disheng, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang regional committee, told the daily.
The policy is implemented in some places in Xinjiang on a trial basis and will be rolled out in the whole region in the near future, he said.
La defended the policy, saying it is aimed at helping local governments to offer better "services to religious activities" as it is in accordance with laws and regulations.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) largely remained atheist and bars its members from practising religion.
A resident from southern Xinjiang's Aksu city told the daily that a flag-raising ceremony is held every Monday in local communities and mosques, and residents who attend the ceremony are required to sing China's national anthem and salute the national flag.
Resource rich Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), and Afghanistan, was on the boil for over six years following unrest among Uyghur Muslims over the increasing settlements of Han Chinese from other provinces.
It has witnessed some of the deadly terrorist attacks in recent years which also spread to other parts of China.
The attacks were officially blamed on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which was linked to al-Qaeda in the past and now to the ISIS.
A large number of youth who managed to move out of Xinjiang have reportedly fought along with ISIS in Syria.
China, which has extensively deployed its security forces, apprehends that they may return and cause further violence in the province.
ETIM was blamed for suicide blast in the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan in September this year in which one person was killed and five others injured.
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According to recent reports, Chinese and Pakistani forces have been conducting joint patrols along the PoK and Xinjiang borders to prevent infiltration of ETIM militants.
Pakistan is already participating in the China-led Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism which also included Afghanistan and Tajikistan to counter terrorism in their border regions.
Pakistan army has also conducted counter terrorism operations against ETIM bases in the tribal regions.
According to an official white paper on freedom of religious beliefs in the Xinjiang released in June the province currently has 24,800 religious venues, including 24,400 mosques, 59 Buddhist temples, 227 Protestant churches, 26 Catholic churches and three Orthodox churches.
The autonomous region is home to 29,300 clerical personnel including 29,000 imams, 280 Buddhist monks and 26 Protestant pastors.
The document said religious extremism has been spreading in Xinjiang in recent years, which has turned some people into extremists or terrorists involved in a series of deadly terror attacks.
Xinjiang is hit by a separatist movement whose supporters claim that the region is not part of China and they oppose settlement of majority Han population in the province which could change the Uyghur character of the region.