China on Thursday dismissed as “groundless rumours” the reports that authorities were seizing copies of the Quran and prayer rugs in Xinjiang as part of a crackdown against extremists in the restive province.
Asked about media reports circulating in the province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters here that the situation in Xinjiang was “sound” and local people there are working and living in peace.
“We hope relevant parties refrain from making groundless allegations and rumours,” he said.
Reports in the official media in China on Wednesday said that the Chinese officials had tightened security measures in Xinjiang, apprehending militants of the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Extending its crackdown against ethnic minority Muslims in the north-western region of Xinjiang, Chinese authorities have asked families to hand-over all the religious items including prayer mats and the holy Quran. Officials in the region have told the families and mosques that Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims must give up all these items or face punishment, a report said.
"Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Qurans and the special mats used for namaaz[prayer]," a Kazakh source in Altay prefecture, near the border with Kazakhstan told Radio Free Asia. "Pretty much every household has a Quran, and prayer mats."
"We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion," Spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, Dilxat Raxit said.
Explaining the step, the Chinese officials reportedly have said that they were removing all the Qurans published in the last five years, as they featured extremist content. This is a part of China's "Three Illegals and One Item" campaign, which bans numerous items owned by the Uyghursa, report said.
Also, items coming in from Kazakhstan or with anything in the Kazakh language or symbols have reportedly been banned.
In the year 2015, the nation invited ire when it forced officials in the Xinjiang region to swear that they will not fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
In some regions, officials had even been asked to give oral and written assurances that they "have no faith, will not attend religious activities and will lead the way in not fasting over Ramadan," Reuters reported citing state media.
The reports of ban on Quran and other prayer material comes ahead of the ruling Communist Party of China’s meeting starting on October 18 in which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to get a second term.
Officials have installed new high-tech body security scanner for road security checks to enhance security ahead of the Congress.
Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan, is located in China’s north western region.
China is battling ETIM militants in Xinjiang, who reportedly have links with Islamic State.
The province has seen protests by majority Uygur Muslims over increasing settlements of the Han community from other parts of China.