Ramadan began on a sad note in Muslim-majority region Xinjiang, home to about 10 million Uyghur (Uighur) Muslims, with a ban on fasting and other restrictions by China. The clampdown covers civil servants, students and children, reported AFP on Monday, citing government websites.
China's ruling Communist party has imposed the ban on government employees and minors from fasting in Xinjiang over the years, besides asking eateries to remain open, the agency added.
"Party members, cadres, civil servants, students and minors must not fast for Ramadan and must not take part in religious activities," AFP quoted a notice posted on Thursday on the government website of central Xinjiang's Korla city as saying.
"During the Ramadan month, food and drink businesses must not close," it added.
This is in contradiction to a Reuters report a few days ago that referred to Chinese officials denying any ban on fasting in Xinjiang during Ramadan.
"During the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, whether to close or open halal restaurants is completely determined by the owners themselves without interference," the agency had quoted a Chinese government official as saying.
Xinjiang borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
The region, endowed with natural resources, has witnessed many clashes between the Muslim Uyghur (Uighur) minority and state security forces. The Chinese government has been blaming militants for instigating people to seek independence.
The Chinese government's move has been slammed by an activist of the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group. "China thinks that the Islamic faith of Uyghurs threatens the rule of the Beijing leadership," the agency quoted activist Dilxat Raxithim as saying.