President Xi Jinping has asked officials to step up efforts to uphold the principle that Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation and religions in the country should adapt to the socialist society being pursued by the ruling Communist Party of China.
Xi visited the volatile Xinjiang region, where the Chinese security forces for the last several years have made efforts to control protests by Uygur Muslims over settlements from Han Chinese from outside the province.
During his four-day tour of the region which started on July 12, Xi met with officials. He stressed fostering a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation, promoting exchanges, interactions and integration among different ethnic groups, the official media reported.
Xi underlined the need to improve the governance capacity of religious affairs and realise the healthy development of religions.
Enhanced efforts should be made to uphold the principle that Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation, and to adapt religions to socialist society, he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The normal religious needs of believers should be ensured and they should be united closely around the party and the government, Xi added.
In the past few years, the president has been advocating the “sinicization” of Islam which broadly means bringing it in tune with the policies of the ruling Communist Party.
Stressing the importance of cultural identity, Xi called for educating and guiding people of all ethnic groups to strengthen their identification with the motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and socialism with Chinese characteristics.
China has been battling allegations of mass incarcerations of Uygur Muslims in camps, which Beijing describes as de-radicalisation and education centres.
China accuses the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which is active in the region of carrying out numerous terrorist attacks.
Beijing also downplays western allegations of massive human rights violations against Uygur Muslims and refutes the US and the EU allegations of genocide against Muslims in the province.
Recently, UN Human Rights Council chief Michelle Bachelet visited Xinjiang after a long drawn-out negotiation process with Beijing to look into the allegations of the internment of over a million Uygur Muslims of different ages as part of China’s crackdown on Islamist militants.
At the end of her visit to Xinjiang on May 28, Bachelet said she raised questions and concerns over the application of counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation measures and their broad application, particularly their impact on the rights of Uygurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.