Source: The Washington Post
Wire Service: AP
An overseas rights activist said Monday that authorities in China's predominantly Muslim far west are closing unregistered Islamic schools and conducting house-to-house searches in a new security crackdown in the restive region.
The campaign under way for five weeks in the city of Hotan underscores Beijing's persisting concerns about separatist movements in its Central Asian border province of Xinjiang.
While anti-government protests and a security clampdown in Tibetan areas have grabbed attention over the past year, China has also been battling unrest in Xinjiang, with a flare-up in violence last year that killed 33 people. Like the Tibetans, many of Xinjiang's ethnic minority Uighurs have chafed under Beijing's rule and restrictions on the practice of religion.
The clampdown in Hotan _ once a jade-trading center on the Silk Road and still a bastion of Uighur culture _ was meant to quash dissent before August's anniversary marking communist troops' entry to Xinjiang 60 years ago, the Germany-based World Uighur Congress said Monday.
A congress spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, said in an e-mail that armed police were making nighttime raids from house to house. At least seven religious schools have been shut and 39 people arrested so far, Raxit said.
The official Xinhua News Agency earlier this month reported that Hotan authorities had launched a campaign against "illegal religious activity" at the end of February and "had already achieved some initial success."