Issue 18: Confiscation of Religious Materials
World Uyghur Congress, 2 June 2018
In 2017, Chinese authorities in East Turkistan ordered Uyghurs to hand to in religious materials, including copies of the Quran, prayer mats and religious books. Chinese police reportedly sent out an order over social media instructing Uyghurs to voluntarily hand in these items or face punishment. Qurans and prayer mats are essential to practicing Uyghur Muslims and almost every Uyghur household would possess these items. Their confiscation is a needlessly oppressive measure that makes it impossible to meaningfully practice Islam.
The confiscations are part of larger initiative, the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign, by the Chinese authorities which bans “illegal” publicity materials, religious activities and religious teachings that officials consider to be ‘extremist’. The campaign seeks to establish Chinese control over every aspect of religion, including activities that are normal and mundane for the rest of the world, such as owning a Quran.
We have already seen Uyghurs being punished for failing to hand in these items or for sharing Quranic verses online. In May 2017, a 26 year old Uyghur woman was detained in Korla city on May 7 after forwarding posts that carried devotional Islamic messages, including quoting from Muslim scripture and praising Allah. At least 5,000-6,000 prayer mats were reported to have been confiscated in the city of Korla in 2017. A Kazakh man, Manat Hamit, received a 16 year prison sentence for reciting and sharing Quranic verses in 2017.