WASHINGTON - Appalled by the massive crackdown on Uighurs in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, a US government panel on religious freedom has urged Chinese authorities to end restrictions imposed on Uighur Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, The Uyghur American Association website reported.
For the sake of security as well as freedom, China's government should lift its restrictions on all peaceful religious activities, particularly during Ramadan, said Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
By fueling anger and resentment, China's indiscriminate repression of Uighur religious, cultural, and political life may trigger precisely the extremism that Beijing is claiming to combat.
As the holy fasting month of Ramadan started, Chinese authorities imposed severe restrictions on Uighur Muslims.
The religious freedom abuses against Muslims includes prohibiting teachers, professors, university students, and other government employees from observing Ramadan fasting, engaging in daily prayers, distributing religious materials, and wearing headscarf.
Minors under the age of 18 continue to be denied access to some mosques and religious education.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, was the scene of deadly violence in July 2009 when the mainly Muslim Uighur minority vented resentment over Chinese restrictions in the region.
In the following days, mobs of angry Han took to the streets looking for revenge in the worst ethnic violence that China had seen in decades.
The unrest left nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured, according to government figures. But Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, say the toll was much higher and mainly from their community.
China's authorities have convicted about 200 people, mostly Uighurs, over the riots and sentenced 26 of them to death.
The US panel pointed that Beijing's brutal anti-Muslim campaign would not lead to stability nor security.
Launched in the name of stability and security, Beijing's brutal campaign of repression against Uighur Muslims includes even the targeting of peaceful private gatherings for religious study and devotion, said Lantos Swett.
The government is engaged in egregious abuses of internationally recognized human rights, including the precious right of freedom and religion or belief.
Predictably, these abuses have led neither to stability nor security.
These violations of human rights were all documented in USCIRF's March 2012 Annual Report.
Since USCIRF's March report was issued, Chinese police and security forces have raided "illegal religious schools" in the city of Hotan, the raids which resulted in arresting 47 Uighur Muslims and injuring 17 children.
In the city of Kashgar, Uighur men were sentenced to between seven to 10 years on charges that included "harboring extremist religious thoughts" and holding "underground religious meetings."
Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million, in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.
And analysts say the policy of transferring Han Chinese to Xinjiang to consolidate Beijing's authority has increased the proportion of Han in the region from five percent in the 1940s to more than 40 percent now.
Beijing views the vast region of Xinjiang as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.