China reprimands officials for ‘indiscipline’ including practising religion

Fifteen officials censured in Xinjiang province

A Uyghur Muslim muezzin uses a bullhorn to call the evening prayers in Kashgar. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A Uyghur Muslim muezzin uses a bullhorn to call the evening prayers in Kashgar. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 01:00

China has reprimanded 15 government officials in Xinjiang province for disciplinary violations including the observation of religious faith, state media said, as the government tightens the pressure in the region with the introduction of unmanned drone aircraft.

Xinjiang is home to 10 million-plus Turkic-speaking Uighurs – a Turkic Muslim ethnic group that shares close linguistic and cultural links with central Asia.

The region has seen intensified violence in the past 18 month, and hundreds have died in violence Beijing blames on Islamist militants and separatists, prompting a major crackdown by authorities.

Imams have been detained for underground preaching and madrasses have been shut.

A report on the Xinhua news agency said an official in the southern city of Kashgar, where a state-backed imam was killed last month, had “worshipped openly . . . a clear violation of the provisions that public servants should not be religious”.

The report quoted Enwaer Tursun, mayor of Kashgar, as saying the violations included having a bad or ambiguous attitude; disseminating false and harmful information online that could harm ethnic stability; and not being vigilant enough on “the war on terror” in Kashgar.

Their punishments ranged from stern warnings to being fired from their positions.

During the Ramadan fasting period some local Muslims complained of government efforts to prevent civil servants from observing the fast. There were ads in the local newspapers warning of the health dangers of fasting.

The fiercely secular Communist Party keeps a firm grip on religion in China, requiring the faithful to worship at state-organised mosques and churches.