Full text: Respecting and Protecting the Rights of All Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang

White Paper
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Wednesday released a white paper titled "Respecting and Protecting the Rights of All Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang."

XinhuaUpdated: July 14, 2021

VII. Freedom of Religious Belief

Respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a basic and long-term national policy of the Chinese government. Subject to the principles of protecting lawful practices, proscribing illegal activities, containing extremism, resisting infiltration, and punishing crime, the local government of Xinjiang fully applies the policy, protecting legitimate religious activities and ensuring the public's freedom of religious belief in accordance with the law.

Freedom of religious belief is guaranteed by law. This freedom is a basic right of citizens. The Constitution stipulates that citizens of the People's Republic of China shall enjoy freedom of religious belief, and that the state shall protect normal religious activities. In Xinjiang, people have the freedom to believe in or not believe in any religion, to believe in one religion in preference to another, to believe in any sect of the same religion, to abandon their past beliefs, and to become believers at their chosen time.

No organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in or not believe in any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in or do not believe in any religion. Anyone who infringes upon the freedom of religious belief will be held legally liable. No citizen may suffer discrimination or unfair treatment for practicing or not practicing any religion.

Lawful religious practices are protected. There are many religions in Xinjiang, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Religious activities such as attending religious services, worshipping Buddha, attending Mass, praying, and reciting scriptures are managed by religious groups and the believers themselves. Such activities are protected by law, and no organization or individual may interfere with them.

The China Islamic Association makes arrangements every year for practicing Muslims to go on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It funds medical care and interpretation for pilgrims, and offers other services to ensure safe and orderly travel.

Religious activities are held on every major religious festival. During the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, whether to close or open halal restaurants is completely determined by the owners themselves without interference. During the Covid-19 epidemic, virus prevention and control measures were taken at all the venues to ensure that worship, fasting, and other activities continued in a stable and orderly manner.

Channels for believers to gain religious knowledge are guaranteed. With state support, the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity have been translated and published in multiple languages. Extensive material from ancient religious books and documents has been collated and published. Such publications include the Tripitaka, Taoist Canon of China, and Collected Editions of Dao De Jing. The Bible has been published in standard Chinese and 11 ethnic minority languages, as well as in Braille. Currently, more than 40 Islamic publications in different ethnic minority languages are distributed in Xinjiang. The Quran and Selections from Sahih al-Bukhari have been published in standard Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Kirgiz languages. The New Collection of al-Wa'z Speeches series have been compiled and published in both Chinese and the Uygur language.

Special government funds have been allocated to protect ancient religious texts, such as the Quran, the Sira, and Maitrisimit nom bitig. Many ancient religious books, including the Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya), Volume II of the Golden Light Sutra, and Maitrisimit nom bitig, have been included in the Catalog of National Rare Books of China.

The China Islamic Association operates both Chinese and Uygur versions of its website. Any individual can study religion through legal channels.

Facilities and conditions of venues for religious activities have been improved. Such venues are protected in accordance with the law. Special government funds have been allocated to maintain and renovate venues listed as cultural heritage sites under the protection of the state and the autonomous region, including the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Shengyou Lamasery in Zhaosu, Baytulla Mosque in Yining, Baluntai Monastery in Hejing, Jiaman Mosque in Hotan, and Yanghang Mosque in Urumqi.

In terms of venues that have fallen into disrepair, the government departments concerned, complying with the Law on Urban and Rural Planning and respecting the wishes of religious believers, have resolved potential safety hazards through reconstruction, relocation or expansion, thus ensuring the safe and orderly practice of religion.

Conditions continue to improve at the venues for religious activities. Mosques are generally equipped with running water, electricity, natural gas, and easy road access. The mosques also have communication tools, radio and television facilities, LED screens, computers, electric fans, air conditioners, water dispensers, medical services, and fire-fighting appliances. Washing and cleansing facilities have been installed in congregational mosques for Juma prayers. All this provides greater convenience for religious believers.

The system for training Islamic clerics has been reinforced. Islamic clerics in Xinjiang are trained at China Islamic Institute, Xinjiang Islamic Institute, and Xinjiang Islamic School. The government has invested more than RMB200 million to build a new campus of the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, which opened in 2017. The institute also has eight new branches in Ili, Changji, Urumqi, Turpan, Aksu, Kizilsu, Kashgar and Hotan. They form a comprehensive training system for clerics.

Xinjiang has made training plans and identified objectives in accordance with the principle of targeted and demand-oriented training. A group of high-caliber Islamic clerics have been trained, to ensure that Islam is practiced and carried on in a sound and orderly manner. To date, the China Islamic Institute and the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and its branches have trained more than 4,000 students.

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