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

The Chinese government has announced that it would punish Muslims, if they are found fasting during Ramadan.

As per a state order, the Chinese officials have banned Muslims in the Xinjiang region from observing Ramadan, which is considered a holy month of fasting and prayer. Reports state that several people have been punished for disobeying the ban in the conflicted province.

Several government agencies and schools posted the ban notices on their websites, saying it is aimed at preventing the institutions from being used to promote religion.

The state-run Bozhou Radio and TV University warned that the ban would also prevent party members, teachers and young people from taking part in other Ramadan related activities, BBC reported.

"We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast," it added.

Ramadan bans in China is certainly not new. Even in the past, similar bans have been brought in.

However, this year the situation in the country is sensitive as Beijing blames the extremist Uighurs for the growing violence in the country, and such a ban will be seen by most Muslims as an attack on their religion.

Recently, Islamic State, a terrorist group invading Iraq and Syria, also highlighted the plight of Muslims in China and called for Muslims the world over to aide them.

In the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in violent clashes between Uighurs and ethnic Chinese. Thousands have been killed in the bloody riots and conflicts. The Uighurs have been often subjected to racial and religious discrimination by the Chinese government.

Dilxadi Rexiti, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress (WUC), told Malaysia Chronicle that the Chinese officials have been raiding homes during Ramadan, punishing Muslims for fasting.

"China taking these kind of coercive measures, restricting the faith of Uyghur, will create more conflict," Rexiti stated. "We call on China to ensure religious freedom for Uyghur and stop political repression of Ramadan."

Xinjiang is an 'autonomous' region in northwestern China inhabited by the Uighurs, a racially distinct Muslim minority with their own language, who for long have been demanding total independence from Beijing.

There are estimated to be over 10 million Uighurs in China.