Bitter Winter interviews reveal cases of arrests and punishments for even minor associations with religions.
Schools in Xinjiang are strictly forbidden from celebrating religious festivals, studying the Quran, and participating in any religious activities. Violators are threatened to be dismissed, expelled, or detained on administrative charges. Even their family members will be implicated. Bitter Winter has reported earlier that some schools in Xinjiang had been ordered to organize ceremonies of allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such activities aim to thoroughly ban religion and “sever the roots” of religious beliefs in schools as part of “sinicization” of religions, seeking to assimilate and adapt religions to socialist needs.
In early July 2018, a Bitter Winter reporter visited several universities in Xinjiang to conduct interviews, which revealed that some college teachers were suffering from the suppression and persecution because of their religious beliefs. The interviewed people wished to remain anonymous.
During the Spring Festival of 2018, a retired university employee posted a religious couplet with Chinese characters meaning “Christ” on the door of the building he resided. He was reported to the university authorities that punished him by revoking his privileges, rescinding his year-end performance salary, and living expenses. The elderly person was also compelled to undergo an exercise of self-criticism before other retired faculty members and write texts of “profound reflection.” If this happened now, the consequences could have been much more serious: the person most probably would have been arrested and sent to one of the “transformation through education camps.” Recently, the school has conducted a comprehensive investigation of those who were reported to have been previously involved in religious activities or visited religious sites. More than 20 people were implicated.
In February 2018, the computer of a Party secretary in one of the institutes was found to contain Islam-related audio. The person was away at the time, so the police searched his office and home without him present. The Party secretary was relieved of all his duties, and he was placed under observation for two years while being demoted from a seventh-level associate professor to a ninth-level lecturer and left to idle in an administrative office. Even his lecturer’s qualification was revoked. This incident will directly affect his child’s college entrance examination next year and future career. He has pled with the school authorities to undergo additional punishment to guarantee his child’s future but was denied any opportunities.
A talented music teacher in the Arts Department was punished for downloading the Quran from the Internet. It turned out that the police had been monitoring him, and he was arrested and incarcerated in June 2017. During the search of his home, the police found a printed copy of the Quran and books about Muslims and Islam, like A Brief History of the Huns and Uyghurs. His investigation revealed that the teacher had performed music and chants at funerals of local Uyghurs and taught in Uyghur language. All this had led to his expulsion from the Party and the University. He remains in detention with no indication of the time for his release.
One of the interviewed people said that since Xi Jinping took office, the situation of religious freedoms in the country had become worse than before. “In the past, Deng Xiaoping turned the revolution into reform. Now it is not a reform but a revolution. There are two significant phrases in the report of the 19th National Congress: one is to carry out political struggles, and the other is to carry out revolutions. Everyone who violates Party regulations will be punished regardless of his or her status or age.”
Reported by Li Zaili
Li Zaili (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), born in Xinjiang in 1982, went to the United States to study at the age of 16. After graduating from university, Li returned to Xinjiang and worked in journalism. In 2014, Xinjiang authorities started detaining large numbers of Muslims in “transformation through education camps.” Learning of that, he left his original position and began independently collecting and organizing information related to “transformation through education camps,” and submitted articles for publication in overseas media outlets. After Bitter Winter was founded in May 2018, Li Zaili became a special correspondent of Bitter Winter covering Xinjiang, Xizang and some other regions in China.