Authorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have reportedly searched the homes of 30,000 members of the Muslim Kazakh ethnic group over the last few weeks, confiscating Qurans, prayer mats and other religious items.
A Kazakh resident of Tekes county, in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, told Radio Free Asia he recently returned to China after a trip across the border in Kazakhstan to find his hometown full of police.
He said his name and ID card number were added to a police “wanted” list along with another 60 Kazakhs, for “returning to China after a long absence.”
“Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, the homes and residences of 30,000 Kazakhs were forcibly searched,” the source said.
“They were looking for Qurans, prayer mats and beads, and anything bearing the name of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed.”
He said Han Chinese in the area, who had also spent time in Kazakhstan, were left alone in the crackdown.
“They confiscated all kinds of religious items,” he said.
A second source, a Kazakh-language interpreter, gave a similar account.
“In Tekes county, 30,000 homes were searched by police for Qurans, prayer mats and also clothing bought in Kazakhstan, and anything sent by parcel from Kazakhstan,” the source said. “The police confiscated all of it.”
Sources said officials had warned people not to try to hide any items, otherwise they would face severe consequences if anything was found later.
Minorities are also being pressured into attending early morning flag-raising ceremonies, where people stand to attention as the national anthem is played, they said.
The Tekes raids come after Chinese authorities ordered ethnic minority Muslim families in Xinjiang to hand in religious items in September.