Chinese authorities have ordered that Muslim shopkeepers and restaurant owners are to sell alcohol and cigarettes in an attempt to “weaken” Islam’s hold on local residents. As reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA), shop owners have also been ordered that they should promote these products in “eye-catching displays.”
Local establishments in the Xinjiang region who have failed to comply were threatened with closure and their owners were also threatened with prosecution. These threats were made despite public backlash against the products that were discouraged by followers of Islam, an official source stated.
The Uyghur village in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region – were stores are being forced to sell these goods – predominantly consist of Muslim residents. Over the last two years, China has launched a series of “strike hard” campaigns to weaken the hold of Islam in the region.
China has also banned government employees and children from attending mosques or observing fasts during the month of Ramadan. In several places, women have also been forbidden from wearing veils that cover the face and men have been discouraged from growing long beards.
Below is a notice from the Aktash Village Party Committee of Laskuy township, which orders shop owners to sell alcohol and cigarettes:
As translated by RFA, the notice states that “all restaurants and supermarkets in our village should place five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes in their shops before [May 1, 2015].” The notice continues, “anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their business suspended, and legal action pursued against them.”
The notice dated 29th April was signed by the Aktash Village Party Committee, who stated that the order for alcohol and cigarette sales had been handed down “from the top echelons of [China’s ruling Communist Party], in order to provide greater convenience to the public.”
Although the Political Law Committee of Laskuy township’s party leadership refused to comment on the notice or their reasons behind wanted Muslim shop owners selling alcohol and cigarettes, RFA did speak with a member from the Aktash Village Party Committee.
The party’s secretary, Adil Sulayman, spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service and confirmed that the new policy was part of an effort to undermine Islam in the area, “We have a campaign to weaken religion here and this is part of that campaign.”
He added, “Since 2012, people have stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes through their businesses. Even those who benefitted financially from the practice have given it up because they fear public scorn. That is why [the order was issued].”