"The social, economic and cultural life of Muslims in Xinjiang has not been affected by the terrorist attacks (on the US in September and their aftermath),'' said Vice-Director of the Xinjiang Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission Rashid Niyaz. "Muslims in Xinjiang are going on with their normal religious life.''
There have been reports by overseas media in the past months saying that China has tightened up its controls over this largest habitat of Muslims in the country by limiting religious activities under the pretext of cracking down on terrorist elements. Some have reported that intentional obstacles have been placed in the way of Xinjiang Muslims' observation of religious rites during the ongoing Ramadan, the month of fasting.
"Local authorities have not put restrictions on fasting,'' said Niyaz. "On the contrary, every year prior to the Ramadan, local authorities conduct thorough checks of mosques, taking particularly note of fire-prevention, so as to guarantee that religious rites can be carried out without mishap.''
However, Niyaz also stressed that religious activities must not be used as an excuse to interfere in other social affairs.
"We firmly oppose the practice of using religious rites during fasting as a front to engage in sabotage activities,'' said Niyaz.
China shares a short border with Afghanistan in Xinjiang. The border has been closed since the US military action against Afghanistan started in October, and the Chinese Government has cautioned foreigners against going near the border area for security reasons.
Despite that, Niyaz said that the US military action in Afghanistan will never be used as an excuse to slow down the opening of Xinjiang.
"There have been no restrictions of any kind imposed on foreign tourists,'' said Niyaz. "The life of foreign experts and scholars now in Xinjiang has not been affected.''
(People's Daily December 6, 2001)