Originally published April 25 2014
China denounces beards and facial hair, claiming people are 'anti-government'
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Are long beards potentially hazardous? Some Chinese officials believe so, or at least, that is the official reason why they are offering an $8,000 "reward" of sorts to any citizen who reports wearers of long beards.
But is there another agenda at work? Most likely. The reason why Chinese officials in Shaya County, Xinjiang, are bashing bushy beards is because they believe they are often worn by potential Islamic terrorists who engage in "separatist preaching," "training for terror attacks" and provoking "conflicts between religious sects."
Recently, United Press International reported that clean-shaven citizens can benefit in China by becoming more watchful of these bushy, hazardous beards and collecting reward money for ratting out anyone who is wearing one.
"This is common practice in the international community. It is therefore natural for Xinjiang to release such a notice and I believe it will play an effective role in combating terrorism as well as maintaining social stability," Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told state-run Chinese paper the Global Times.
According to the paper, the campaign is offering rewards ranging from 50 yuan to up to 50,000 yuan for "a wide range of intelligence from those wearing beards to spreading information to topple the authorities." Rewards will also be on offer for tipoffs on news of foreigners traveling through the county, as well as people conducting "illegal religious activities."
Rising separatist tension
Official disapproval of long facial hair in Xinjiang is not new. The region abuts Central Asia, where there are significant oil reserves and which is home to large numbers of Uighurs, an ethnic group that is traditionally Muslim.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ):
A 2012 report from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, for example, found that campaigns to try and prevent Muslims in the region from wearing overly bushy beards or--in the case of women--covering their hair with scarves are increasing. Many Muslims wear beards as an indication of their faith. In some cases, the commission said, recipients of welfare benefits in the province had to agree not to wear veils or large beards in order to receive welfare benefits.
The Chinese government, locally and in Beijing, has been dealing with tension between Uighurs and the Han Chinese majority for years. In 2009, tensions exploded into violence when nearly 200 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the regional Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. Xinjiang separatists have also been accused of being behind a vicious train station attack in March in the southwestern city of Kunming which left 33 people dead.
China's al Qaeda problem?
In March, the website Absolute Rights reported that China may have its own al Qaeda-type problem:
In the span of a couple of weeks, China has been in the global headlines following a pair of incidents that some think may be related.
The first occurred March 2, when 10 black-clad assailants wielding knives and machetes hacked and attacked random civilians in the heavily Muslim Xinjiang region. In the end, 34 were killed and 130 were injured. The Chinese have referred to the attack as their own version of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The attack was preceded by a video (terrorist groups love to make and release videos) a few days earlier, which was released by an al Qaeda-affiliated group that threatened China. And just this week, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has disappeared without a trace.
Xinjiang has traditionally had a significant population of Uighurs, WSJ reported, but an increasing number of Han Chinese have been moving into the region because of its booming economy.
Despite the recent anti-beard campaign, the government nonetheless maintains that the ethnic minority's rights are protected, and that includes expressions of faith.
"There is no such thing as a ban on public displays of Islamic practice in Xinjiang or anywhere else in the country," the government's English-language mouthpiece China Daily said in a commentary last year. "Freedom of religious beliefs and practices are respected and protected throughout the country."
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