Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Chinese academic defends beer festival in Xinjiang

‘OPEN PROVOCATION’:The drinking contest was staged ahead of Ramadan, during which civil servants, teachers and students have been banned from fasting

AFP, BEIJING

A Chinese Communist Party academic defended a government--organized beer festival in a mainly Muslim part of the nation ahead of Ramadan by saying that locals enjoy alcohol, state media reported yesterday.

Islam prohibits alcohol, but authorities in Niya County in the Xinjiang region held a beer drinking contest on Monday last week, three days before the start of Islam’s holiest month, with cash prizes of up to US$160 for the winners, the Global Times said.

The county is in southern Xinjiang, the heartland of the Uighur ethnic minority, who are mostly Muslim.

Uighur rights groups say restrictions on Islam have added to ethnic tensions in the far western Muslim-majority region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.

China says it faces a terrorist threat in Xinjiang, with officials blaming “religious extremism” for growing violence.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, criticized the festival as an “open provocation” to faithful Muslims in a statement, but the Global Times cited La Disheng (朿迪生), professor at a Xinjiang Chinese Communist Party training school, as saying that “many Uighurs ... like to drink for pleasure.”

He labeled those condemning drinking among local Muslims as “extremists and separatists.”

The Chinese Communist Party tightly controls the media and initial reports about the beer festival were apparently deleted on Tuesday last week.

China has banned civil servants, students and teachers in Xinjiang from fasting during Ramadan and has ordered restaurants to stay open, official Web sites said this month. Government-run Tianshan Web site showed that officials in Niya County organized an event where local Muslims made and ate rice dumplings on Saturday, three days after the start of Ramadan, during which devout Muslims abstain from all food and drink during daylight hours.

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