China is now conducting regular sweeps to “rescue” children from Muslim madrassas (religious schools) in Xinjiang, a remote Western province of the country with a heavy Muslim population. Last month officials removed 82 children from such schools; in recent days 190 more children have been taken, according to Reuters. The crackdown on madrassas is part of a larger assault on what Reuters calls the three illegals: “illegal publicity materials, illegal religious activities, and illegal religious teaching.” More:
Children in Xinjiang are prohibited by the government from attending madrassas, prompting many parents who wish to provide a religious education to use underground schools.
Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest, a claim Beijing denies.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said that he feared more people would end up being caught up in the dragnet.
It’s not quite clear from the Reuters story or in the original Chinese accounts what “rescuing” means—whether it just means they were forcibly placed in other schools, or something more extreme like taken away from their parents. But either way, these sweeps are another episode in China’s long, fraught relationship with the western provinces. Like the attempt to control and limit the growth of its Christian population, China’s struggle with its Muslim population in Xinjiang is a sign it is getting increasingly aggressive in its campaign to quash dissent and suppress minority traditions into a more manageable state.The Muslim question in Xinjiang is a bit different than the Christian question, tied up as it is with China’s anti-terrorism policies, but the strategy isn’t likely to work for Muslims or for Christians. That doesn’t mean Beijing won’t keep trying.