The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 27, will come to an end at sundown on Saturday, June 24, or Sunday, June 25 (depending on the moon). During this time, Muslims in China will gather to pray and celebrate with family and friends. While practices vary by area, Eid al-Fitr celebrations are likely to have an impact on many businesses and services in Muslim communities that will close or significantly reduce their hours of operation beginning on Saturday or Sunday evening; similar disruptions could also continue into coming days.
Most Chinese Muslims reside in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where they constitute 58 percent of the population.
China’s restive western Xinjiang province region passed a new regulation on March 29, 2017, to curb religious extremism. The regulation bans a wide range of acts, including wearing veils or growing beards. Authorities in the region might suppress Eid al-Fitr celebrations on June 24-25, for example by restricting restaurants opening hours, generally extended late into the night in Muslim communities during the Eid weekend.
Eid al-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting and remains one of the most important dates on the Muslim calendar. Generally speaking, the month of Ramadan is historically marred by a significant increase in terrorist threats and as such there is a potential for attacks to be carried out during Eid celebrations.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is a sensitive area in China. Its Muslim Turkish-speaking Uyghur minority in the region feels marginalized by the Chinese authorities, who reject the community’s demand for a separate Uyghur state. Many Muslim Uyghurs feel they are oppressed and discriminated against by the Chinese government, which has imposed strict controls over the observance of Muslim customs and practices. Uyghur separatists claim the region, also referred to as East Turkestan, was illegally incorporated in the People’s Republic of China when it formed in 1949 and has, since then, been under Chinese occupation. The East Turkestan independence movement is led by Turkic Islamist organizations, which have carried out several waves of violence against the Chinese government, including several terrorist attacks (car bombings, knife attacks) in 2013-14. Ethnic tensions regularly lead to sporadic knife attacks perpetrated by Uyghur extremists.
Individuals in China are advised to remain vigilant and to avoid large public gatherings. There is an elevated risk for terrorist or sectarian violence in the Ningxia, Gansu, Qintai, Xi’an, and Xinjiang provinces. Those present in the country's northwest are advised to remain vigilant and report any suspicious objects or behavior to authorities.
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