The Ministry of Religious Affairs has sent a delegation to China on Tuesday to verify the media reports that Chinese authorities have banned fasting in the holy month of Ramzan in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province
The Chinese government had formally requested Pakistan to send a delegation to Xinjiang to determine facts about the observance of Ramzan in the province populated with Uighur Muslims, said an official of the religious affairs ministry.
The request was made after an international news agency reported that Chinese authorities had banned fasting in the region.
The delegation includes Director General (Research) Noor Islam Shah and Faisal Mosque Chief Cleric Ziaur Rehman. It will stay in Xinjiang for four days and ascertain facts regarding the reported fasting ban. Earlier it was reported that Chinese authorities had marked the start of Ramzan with a customary ban on civil servants, students and children in the mainly-Muslim region to fast.
However, the Chinese government denied the reports. Chinese officials claim they did not force Muslims in Xinjiang to break their fast during Ramzan because the country’s constitution guarantees religious freedom.
China’s ruling Communist party is officially atheist and has for years restricted the practice in Xinjiang – home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, according to several international media outlets.
The authorities attempt to ban fasting among Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang every year, attracting widespread criticism from rights groups.
“Food service workplaces will operate normal hours during Ramzan,” read a notice posted earlier in June on the website of the state Food and Drug Administration in Xinjiang’s Jinghe county.
Uighur rights groups claim China’s restrictions on Islam in Xinjiang have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.