Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have ordered ethnic minority Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the authorities, report Radio Free Asia.
Muslims are being told to hand over the religious items “voluntarily” to authorities, if any are found in searches then offenders will face harsh punishments, sources in the region said.
According to the report, officials across Xinjiang have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims must hand in the items or face harsh punishment if they are found later.
“Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Qurans and the special mats used for namaaz[prayer],” a Kazakh source in Altay prefecture, near the border with Kazakhstan told RFA on Wednesday.
“Pretty much every household has a Quran, and prayer mats,” he said.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, said reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week.
“We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion,” Raxit said.
“They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren’t handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments,” he said.
Raxit said announcements are being made by the police via popular social media platform WeChat.
“All Qurans and related items must be handed into the authorities, and there are notices to this effect being broadcast via WeChat,” Raxit said.
“The announcements say that people must hand in any prayer mats of their own accord to the authorities, as well as any religious reading matter, including anything with the Islamic moon and star symbol on it,” he said.
“They are requiring people to hand in these items of their own accord,” he said.
The clampdown is part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign targeting what the Chinese government considers “illegal” religious items owned by mostly Muslim Uyghurs.