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China defends crackdown on Islamist militants in Xinjiang

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Beijing: China on Thursday said it would not allow any foreign organisation or individual to interfere in its religious affairs as it defended the crackdown against Islamic militants in Xinjiang province, bordering countries like Pakistan, as a “just act” to safeguard its fundamental interests.

Religious extremists, in the name of religion, spread radical and extremist views and take extremist means to try to establish a theocracy, a Chinese government white paper titled ‘Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang’ that was released here said.

‘Unprecedented religious freedom’

Xinjiang enjoys unprecedented religious freedom, the paper has said asserting that the freedom of religious belief in the province “cannot be matched by that in any other historical period.”

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, citizens’ freedom of religious belief was fully respected and believers’ normal religious needs effectively met, it said.

Containing religious extremism

In Xinjiang, “the positive role of religious circles in promoting economic development and social stability is well displayed, the government’s capability of administrating religious affairs is constantly strengthened, international exchanges in the religious field are being expanded and the proliferation and spread of religious extremism is being effectively contained,” it said.

Religious extremism “is by nature anti-human, anti-society, anti-civilisation and anti-religion,” it said and defended China’s efforts in fighting religious extremism, saying it is a just act to safeguard the fundamental interests of the country and the people.

“Purely our internal matter”

The paper has said the Chinese government resolutely opposes the politicisation of religious matters and any other country’s interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of religion.

“China…will never allow any foreign organisation or individual to interfere with China’s religious affairs,” the white paper said.

They are of Turkic origin

Xinjiang, which has over 10 million Uyghur Muslims of Turkic origin, is in turmoil for the past few years over Uyghur unrest over the settlements of Hans, the dominant community in China from different provinces settling there.

The province as well as other places in China including Beijing witnessed several terrorist attacks for which Beijing blames the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Xinjiang shared borders with the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Afganistan, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

After Hafiz Saeed’s flak

The reference to any foreign or individual organisation in the white paper comes in the backdrop of reports that the leader of the Pakistan-based Jamat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed has criticised China for the crackdown on Uyghur Islamic militants in Xinjiang.

Saeed said that Chinese leadership was a “challenge to the Islamic way of life” and “hurting” China-Pakistan close relationship and called upon the Pakistan government to “show some courage and direct China to stay away from hurting Islamic sentiments.”

Guard against infiltrations: Xi

Earlier speaking at a conference on religions in April here, Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked officials to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations” into China in the name of religion and asserted that people of all faiths must adhere to the leadership of atheist ruling Communist Party of China.

The white paper has said China holds the principle of independence and self-management in religious undertakings and foreign organisations and individuals must not interfere.

“China’s religious undertakings are run by its own religious groups, personnel or citizens” and that the country’s religious affairs or organisations “are not subject to any foreign domination,” it said.

“Foreigners must abide by Chinese laws”

Foreigners must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when participating in religious activities within Chinese territory and must not interfere in China’s religious affairs, state run Xinhua news agency quoted the paper as saying.

“As a provincial-level administrative region of China, Xinjiang sticks to the principle of independence and self-management in terms of its religious affairs,” it said.

“Affected by international religious extremism, religious extremism has grown and spread in Xinjiang in recent years,” it said adding that normal religious activities in Xinjiang were protected by law and religious organisations were responsible for coordinating internal religious affairs and the government should not interfere.

‘No Xinjiang citizen punished’

“No Xinjiang citizen has been punished because of his or her rightful religious belief,” it said.

The document said those who had violated the legitimate rights and interests of religious organisations, venues for religious activities or clerical personnel or believers would bear due legal responsibilities, and those who had committed crimes would be held criminally responsible.

“Religious extremism betrays and distorts religious doctrines, deludes and deceives the public, particularly young people,” it said.

‘It is a real danger’

Facts show that religious extremism has become a real danger that undermines national unity and ethnic solidarity, sabotages religious and social harmony, impairs social stability and peace in Xinjiang, and endangers the life and property of people of all ethnic groups, it has said.

Religious extremist forces have designed and carried out a series of severe and violent terrorist attacks in China, injuring or killing religious personnel and believers and other innocent people, it said.

It is a fight vs. terrorism

The crackdown on terrorism and extremism is in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, such as the Criminal Law and the Counterterrorism Law and is an important part of the battle of the world community against religious extremism, it has said.

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