Forcing others to wear extremist garments is crime: China

Beijing: After banning burqa in restive Xinjiang province where the Uyghur Muslims have a majority, China has amended its criminal law stipulating that forcing others to wear “extremist garments” is a crime.

A judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) and the Supreme People’s Court stipulates that forcing others to wear clothes or symbols associated with terrorism and extremism while spreading terrorism and extremism is considered a crime, state-run Global Times reported today. Anyone who violently forces others to wear such garments will be put under surveillance, detained or face a maximum of three years in prison, the report said.

Neither the amendment nor the interpretation by the SPP provided further details about what constitutes extremist garments or symbols under the law. The amendment came after Xinjiang’s local legislature adopted a regulation banning burqa in public in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Gong Xiaojun, a resident of Urumqi who repeatedly refused local policemen’s requests that he shave his full beard and allow his wife to not wear a burqa, was sentenced to two years behind bars by a local court in 2014 for resisting the requests of a public servant, according to the criminal judgement in his case.

The ban against burqa followed a spate of violent attacks allegedly by the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants in Xinjiang where Uyghur Muslims were restive over the continued settlements of Han community from other parts of China. Chinese government has deployed a large number of security forces to combat the violence. Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that it is not common for people in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to wear such garments these days.

He said that most of those who wear clothes or symbols associated with terrorism and extremism have been forced to do so and some have been fooled into doing so by being told that what they are wearing is normal religious costume.

They are often regarded as “traitors” if they do not wear the garments, he said. Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said that although the law alone cannot eradicate the spread of extremism, it does provide a legal shield for common people to defend themselves when threatened by extremists. Li said that recent efforts against extremism are not simply part of a political mission. “Extremist ideology influences every aspect of people’s daily life, and more detailed and long-term measures are needed to eradicate extremism,” Li said, citing education as a way to help people distinguish normal religious beliefs from extremist ones.

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