It’s not a crackdown, per se: Authorities in China’s restive Xinjiang province are ordering all shops to sell alcohol and cigarettes in a move designed to cause trouble for the Muslim Uighurs who make up a majority of the population there. Radio Free Asia reports:
Last week, authorities in Laskuy township, in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Hotan county, issued an announcement in the town seat of Aktash village that “all restaurants and supermarkets in our village should place five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes in their shops before [May 1, 2015].”
In addition to directing owners to create “eye-catching displays” to promote the products, the April 29 announcement stated that “anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their business suspended, and legal action pursued against them.”
Signed by the Aktash village Party Committee of Laskuy Township, the notice stated that the order had been handed down “from the top echelons of [China’s ruling Communist Party], in order to provide greater convenience to the public.”
The Party has been trying to “weaken religion” in the region after a string of violent incidents between Uighur extremists and local security forces. Its uneasy relationship with the Uighurs is due in part to Beijing’s worries that radical Islam will spread through the population via their connections to nearby Pakistan and Afghanistan. In March, Chinese authorities issued a warning about Uighurs who are joining ISIS.
As we’ve said before about tactics similar to this recent injunction (like banning Ramadan), in the long run such blanket oppression is likely to have the opposite effect to the one intended. Instead of “weakening religion,” it will stoke the radicals, offend the moderates, and put off Pakistan, whom Beijing has long wanted to do more to clamp down on Islamists.