Authorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have ordered Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and Korans, sources said.
Officials across Xinjiang have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority
Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims were being told they must hand in the items or face harsh penalties, the sources told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Korans and the special mats used for namaaz [prayer],” a Kazakh source in Altay prefecture, near the border with Kazakhstan said Sept. 27.
“Pretty much every household has a Koran, and prayer mats,” he said.
According to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress group, the order on the religious items went out in Kashgar, Hotan and other areas earlier in September.
“We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Korans, 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,” RFA reported him as saying.
Police are making announcements on the popular social media platform WeChat, he 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.
Earlier this year, authorities in Xinjiang began confiscating all Korans published more than five years ago due to “extremist content.”