China Flag
China flags [Representational Image]Reuters

China has banned Islamic names of babies in its northwest Xinjiang region, which is home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

Reports state that China has banned Islamic names like Saddam or Midina, and newborns with these names will not get a crucial residence permit called "hukou," which is necessary for access to educational and medical services.

"This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering religious extremism," the HRW in a statement said.

The Xianjiang government says that such names have been banned in the region as they have religious connotations, which can "exaggerate religious fervour," according to Efe news reports.

Xinjiang authorities on April 1 had also imposed new set of rules banning "abnormal" beards and a full veil. The authorities also warned people of fire punishments if they refused to watch the state TV or listen to the state-sponsored radio programmes.

Hundreds of residents in Xinjiang have died over the recent years of unrest. Although the government blames the unrest on Islamist militants and separatists, human rights groups have said that the violence in the area is more likely a reaction to repressive Chinese policies in the province.

Muslims pray at a mosque in Xinjiang region
Muslims pray at a mosque in Xinjiang regionReuters

"Violent incidents and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang have been on the rise in recent years, but the government's farcical repressive policies and punishments are hardly solutions," said HRW. "They are only going to deepen resentment among the Uighurs," the human rights organisation said.

The Chinese government, last year in November, had asked the residents of the region to submit their passports to the authorities so that the government can maintain "social order."

The move was taken by the Chinese authorities to curb the residents from moving abroad days after it implemented strict rules to suppress religious freedom in the area. While unveiling new education rules in October, the government had said that parents and guardians who encourage or force their children into religious activities will be reported to the police.