A regulation prohibiting people from wearing or forcing others to wear clothes or logos associated with religious extremism was passed in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Nov 28.
The revised regional regulation on religious affairs is the first in the country to target religious extremism.
The measure was approved unanimously by the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang People’s Congress, and is due to come into force on Jan 1 next year. It is intended to protect legal religious activities.
“An increasing number of problems involving religious affairs have emerged in Xinjiang,” said Ma Mingcheng, deputy director of the Xinjiang People’s Congress and director of its legislative affairs committee.
“The old regulation, which was passed 20 years ago, just cannot handle new situations, such as the spreading of terrorist or extreme religious materials via the Internet or social media, and using religion to interfere in people’s lives.”
He said the regulation has taken two-and-a-half years to draft, and is the most discussed and debated measure in the region’s history due to the sensitivity and importance of the subject.
Religious extremism has become the main threat to stability in Xinjiang and has led to an increasing number of terrorist attacks in and outside the region.
The new regulation contains 18 new articles, most of which clarify the nature of illegal and extreme religious activities, Ma said.
It defines religious extremism as activities or comments that twist the doctrines of a religion and promote thoughts of extremism, violence and hatred.
Local authorities will be given the right to ask people not to wear clothes or logos linked to religious extremism, though the types of clothes and logos are not specified.
The regulation prohibits people from distributing and viewing videos about jihad, or holy war, religious extremism and terrorism in or outside religious venues, and requires religious leaders to report such activities to the local authorities and police.
People will not be allowed to practice religion in government offices, public schools, businesses or institutions. Religious activities will have to take place in registered venues.
The regulation says people should not use religion to interfere with the judicial system or wedding and funeral traditions.
“The revised and new articles all target the most urgent and unique problems in Xinjiang’s religious affairs and are very practical,” Ma said. “We want people to know what religious activities are protected and what need to be stopped.”
Li Juan, president of the Xinjiang Police Academy, said most of the measures already introduced to combat religious extremism are based on government directives that have no legal force. Law enforcement officers sometimes handle religious issues inappropriately, causing conflict between the government and the local people, he added.
Ma said the regional people’s congress has been helping the National People’s Congress to draft an anti-terrorism law, and may draw up a regional regulation after it is introduced.
“Legislation in Xinjiang will focus on combating terrorism and curbing the spread of religious extremism so social stability and lasting peace can be achieved,” he added.
Legislation in Xinjiang will focus on combating terrorism and curbing the spread of religious extremism so social stability and lasting peace can be achieved.”