Some of the news coming out of China this month demonstrates the difference between more western, free, open societies and repressive regimes. If you’re in Europe or North America, for example, and you run into a problem with radical Islamic terrorists, you begin a protracted conversation about respect for religious freedom and tolerance combined with carefully crafted military and police enforcement activities designed to detect the “few bad apples” who are causing problems. In China, conversely, you go into the province where you’re experiencing problems and just begin banning public expressions of the faith. (CNN)
No long beards. No veils in public places. No home-schooling.
China is intensifying its crackdown against what it deems religious extremism in the far-west province of Xinjiang, which is home to 10 million Muslims.
The latest measures — outlined in a sweeping new anti-extremism legislation — take effect Saturday and come on the heels of a series of steps to increase surveillance in the region that include the surrender of passports and mandatory GPS trackers in cars.
“They’re doubling down on security in Xinjiang,” said James Leibold, an associate professor at Australia’s Le Trobe University, whose research focuses on China’s Uyghur minority.
Xinhiang, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is the traditional home of the Uyghurs. (You may know some of them from the diaspora they’ve experienced, with some communities settling in the United States.) This particular Muslim group has come under strict scrutiny by the Chinese government after significant unrest and occasional violence in the region. As noted above, the Chinese have a far less “generous” attitude toward anyone who upsets the communist apple cart in the slightest and their version of a Bill of Rights is generally restricted to your right to do whatever the government tells you to do.
The crackdown is particularly brutal to the thinking of most westerners, though. The list of what’s being restricted and how people are being monitored goes far beyond a simple ban on long beards and facial veils or forcing all Muslims to have GPS trackers in their vehicles. Check some of these out. The following activities are now banned:
- Advocating or propagating extremist thoughts
- Wearing or forcing others to wear full-face coverings
- Hyping up religious fanaticism through growing beards or choosing names in an abnormal way
- Not allowing children to receive state education, interfering with state education;
- Deliberately interfering or harming the implementation of family planning policies;
- Publishing, downloading or reading articles, publications and audio-video material containing extremist content;
As CNN’s coverage goes on to explain, the Chinese aren’t terribly worried about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s when putting new rules in place. What qualifies as “extremist thoughts” for these purposes? Don’t worry. The police will let you know when they arrive. Choosing a new name for your child? Don’t pick an “abnormal” one. And forget about home schooling. Your child will attend the state operated school and receive the proper levels of communist indoctrination. And if your clothing looks “too Muslim” you’ll soon be having a chat with the authorities.
No matter how concerned you may be about terrorism in the west, don’t be admiring the tactics of the Chinese. Yes, they will probably have far fewer problems with domestic terror attacks than any western nations, but their people pay an awful price for that security in return.