Published: 2017-09-30 13:45
Last Updated: 2017-09-30 14:26
Chinese authorities were reported to have ordered Muslims families to hand in religious items to police, including copies of the Quran and prayer rugs, according to a report by Radio Free Asian on Wednesday.
"We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related item from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of the religion," stated an official from the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization composed of exiled Uyghur groups.
"They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren't handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments," the official added.
A day later, Chinese authorities dismissed the report as “groundless rumours”.
Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Lu Kang, when asked about the media reports, told reporters in Beijing that the situation in Xinjiang was "sound", with locals working and living in peace. “We hope relevant parties refrain from making groundless allegations and rumours,” he added.
Official media sources stated that security has tightened in the region, cracking down on seperatist armed group the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), following a ruling from the Communist Party of China’s meeting starting on October 18, where Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to get a second term.
Xinjiang, which borders Pakistani-Kashmir and Afghanistan, is located in China's north western region. The ETIM allegedly has ties to Daesh.
The Xinjiang conflict has been ongoing since 1960, with seperatist Uyghur people stating that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally incorporated into China.