[This photo taken on April 16, 2015 shows Uighur men praying in a mosque in Hotan, in China's western Xinjiang region. AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKERGREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images]
Washington: Muslim shops and restaurants in a Chinese village have been ordered to sell alcohol and cigarettes in an effort to weaken Islam’s hold on residents in China’s Xinjiang region. Shop owners who refuse face closure and prosecution, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Monday.
The notice, obtained by RFA and posted on Twitter, ordered all restaurants and supermarkets in Aktash to sell five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes and display them prominently.
“Anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action pursued against them,” the notice said.
RFA, which provides some of the only coverage of events in Xinjiang to escape strict Chinese government controls, said Hotan prefecture, where Aktash is located, had become “a hotbed of violent stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic Uighurs and Chinese security forces.”
The move is the latest in a series of anti-Muslim campaigns by Chinese authorities in the name of fighting religious extremism to undermine Islam influence in northwestern China.
In the village of Aktash in southern Xinjiang, Communist Party official Adil Sulayman, told RFA that many local shopkeepers had stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes from 2012 “because they fear public scorn,” while many locals had decided to abstain from drinking and smoking.
Sulayman said authorities in Xinjiang viewed ethnic Uighurs who did not smoke as adhering to “a form of religious extremism.” They issued the order to counter growing religious sentiment that was “affecting stability,” he said.
“We have a campaign to weaken religion here, and this is part of that campaign,” he told the Washington-based news service.
The Holy Quran calls the use of “intoxicants” sinful, while some Muslim religious leaders have also forbidden smoking.