In acts that remind of the Cultural Revolution era style policing, the Chinese Communist authorities have intensified their attack on Islam.
“Halal” is a term that is usually applied to food and drinks and defines what is permissible or traditional as per Islamic laws. The opposite of this is “haram,” which refers to what is forbidden. Pork, for example, is haram as per Islamic law. All other meats are permissible, but even then, they must adhere to a particular method of slaughter for it to be “halal.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, has taken to attack various Islamic ideas in its bid to remain “secular.” In China, the term qingzheng fanhua is loosely translated as the “spread of halal” and often called “generalization of halal,” which refers to the use of the concept of halal in non-food categories.
The CCP sees this as an attempt by the Islamic forces from overseas to infiltrate, spread extremist ideas, and organize terrorist activities. Thus, the CCP has gone all out, carrying out a large-scale reform movement in the regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia, as well as the province of Gansu. These areas have sizeable Muslim populations.
Bitter Winter has interviewed several people from Xinjiang to understand how their life has been affected by CCP’s persecution. A businesswoman in the No.7 Agricultural Division told us that the local police had forced her to remove “halal” and “Hui” signboards from her restaurant. Hui refers to the Han Chinese adherents of Islam.
For example, establishments named “Ma Hui Restaurant” or “Ningxia Hui Meat Shop” must have the word Hui either removed or covered with tape. In fact, it is not just commercial establishments that must do this; even the residences of these people must be free of any Islamic signage. Bedcovers or beads on the lids of wash-posts must be purged of such religious text as well.
“If we don’t obey the CCP’s orders, our shop will be shut down immediately, and we will be taken to a transformation through education camp for state-sanctioned indoctrination,” says the businesswoman.
She further says that ever since this started in May this year, her business has been affected heavily and she is struggling to pay rent. Being in the food business and removing the “halal” and “Hui” signs, she finds it difficult to make money and support her husband and their two children.
Officers from the police station, the health bureau and the community office visit for inspections every few days to check if restaurateurs have any “halal” or “Hui” markings.
The police also don’t allow the people of Islamic faith to celebrate Ramadan in a traditional way. Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting during which Muslims are supposed to rest and pray. However, the police warned the restaurateurs against closing down their establishments. People were told that if they did that, they would not be allowed to re-open their businesses after Ramadan.
The CCP says it takes actions like these so China can be “one big family of all ethnic groups” but the businesswoman in Xinjiang is bitter. “The purpose is to disrupt your traditional festival and make you live the same as Han people,” she says.
Qin Guoli (pseudonym) from Turpan city has similar stories to share. This year in March, personnel from Shanshan County Bureau for Industry and Commerce paid a visit to his supermarket and told him to remove every product with the word halal from the shelves. Products such as halal chopsticks are believed to be “generalization of halal,” which is something the Party looks at with suspicion.
Mr. Qin recounts the example of another supermarket owner whose establishment was shut down promptly because he failed to remove a pack of chicken broth power marked with the word halal from its shelves.
An Uyghur customer lamented to Mr. Qin, “If they want to make me eat pork, I will have to eat it. There are no halal items, and I can’t go on not eating at all!” Another man complained that one couldn’t even dare to look for halal products anymore. If one does, one risks being sent to a “transformation through education camp.”
Bitter Winter also spoke to Wang Fei in Ili Prefecture. Last year in December, a group of five visited him at his home. The group included village security director and personnel from the CCP county committee. They ordered Mr. Wang to show his household registration booklet and Residence Identity Cards of all his family members. The officials also enquired about his children’s employment status.
While this was going on, one official noticed a pattern on the door of Mr. Wang’s house. He could not understand what was wrong with it at first and then the village security director said, “This is a Muslim pattern. Islamic mosques have this pattern.” He was then ordered to saw off the pattern from the door immediately. The officials warned him that they would come back to check if he has obeyed their orders or not.
Days later, Mr. Wang noticed that his neighbor too had sawed off the same pattern from his door handle. When he enquired, Mr. Wang found out that the neighbor was afraid that village cadres would visit and threaten him as well. “The CCP doesn’t even let a small door handle slip by. Such things didn’t even happen during the Cultural Revolution,” he says.
Reported by Li Zaili