China today banned wearing veils or growing “abnormal” beards in Xinjiang as part of a major crackdown aimed at curbing “religious extremism” in the restive Uygur Muslim majority province. According to law, which came into effect today, special task forces to curb extremism would be set up at regional, prefectural and county governments and local leaders would be evaluated annually for their localities’ achievements on the matter. The stringent regulation aimed at curbing religious extremism came amid the government’s intensifying campaign against what it calls the rising threat of terrorism and separatism in the province was passed this week.
The law bans a wide range of acts including wearing veils or “abnormal” beards, without specifying the term. It will also be illegal to refuse to watch state television and listen to state radio, or prevent children from receiving national education – activities deemed “manifestations” of extremism, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The regulation were passed by the Xinjiang legislature’s standing committee. Security and surveillance measures have been beefed up in recent months following reports of heightened violence in the region’s rural south, including massive shows of force where thousands of heavily-armed police paraded in a number of cities.
The province is restive for several years due to the resentment by Uygurs over increasing settlements of Han population from other provinces. China blames separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an Al Qaeda affiliated group, for the spate of violent attacks in and out of the province. A number of its members reported to have joined Islamic State (IS) to fight in Syria and Beijing apprehends that they would return to carry out more attacks.