Chinese Authorities Are Reportedly Forcing Muslims to Sell Alcohol

Chinese authorities are reportedly cracking down on teetotaling shop owners in one village in Xinjiang, a northwestern province with a Muslim majority population, in order to destabilize Islam in the region.

May 6 2015, 10:30pm

Photo via Flickr user rguha

Could the mere presence of alcohol be enough to stamp out all of Islam? China certainly seems to think so.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that Chinese authorities are cracking down on teetotaling shop owners in one village in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province with a Muslim majority population.

READ: How a Rock Musician from China Brought Uyghur Food to Boston

Last week, a notice from the Aktash village Party Committee of Laskuy demanded that "all restaurants and supermarkets in our village should place five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes in their shops" by the beginning of May 2015.

Aktash shop owners were further directed to install "eye-catching displays" to entice customers to buy booze and smokes.

The notice, which claimed that it had been signed off by "the top echelons" of the Communist Party, warned 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."

This is just one of many "strike hard" offensives that the Chinese government has launched against ethnic minority Uyghurs to combat violence in Muslim Xinjiang. The Independent notes that government employees there have been banned from attending mosques or fasting during Ramadan, while women have been barred from wearing veils.

Adil Sulayman, an Aktash village party member, confirmed to RFA that the new rule was intended to destabilize Islam. "We have a campaign to weaken religion here and this is part of that campaign," he said. Sulayman said that up to 80 percent of local people between the ages of 16 and 45 had given up drinking and smoking in the past several years. Prior to the notice, shop owners had voluntarily stopped offering alcohol and cigarettes "because they fear public scorn."

China claims that it is merely fighting Islamic extremism in Xinjiang, where it says that unrest has given way to Uyghurs taking up jihad against the state. But China also has a long history of oppressing Uyghurs, who often say that they only want to live in their own state free from persecution.

RFA notes that Hotan prefecture, where Aktash village is located, has recently become "a hotbed of violent stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic Uyghurs and Chinese security forces."

Tension may be high, but according to Sulayman, village residents seem to be complying with the new order—for now. "We have more than 60 restaurants and stores in our township and I was told that all of them began stocking alcohol and cigarettes within three days of the announcement, but I didn't inspect the businesses myself," Sulayman said.