Uninvited, more than one million Han Chinese people have reportedly moved into the homes of Uighur Muslim families to report on whether they display Islamic or unpatriotic beliefs.
Sent to homes in Xinjiang province by the Chinese government, American anthropologist Darren Byler said they were tasked with watching for signs that their hosts’ attachment to Islam might be “extreme”.
The informants, who describe themselves as “relatives” of the families they are staying with, are said to have received specific instructions on how to get them to let their guard down.
As devout Muslims would refuse cigarettes and alcohol. this is seen as one way of finding out whether they were extreme.
“Had a Uighur host just greeted a neighbour in Arabic with the words ‘Assalamu Alaykum’? That would need to go in the notebook,” said Dr Byler, in research published by Asia Society’s Centre on US-China Relations. “Was that a copy of the Quran in the home? Was anyone praying on Friday or fasting during Ramadan? Was a little sister’s dress too long or a little brother’s beard irregular?”
As many as a million Uighurs are thought to have been rounded up and placed in “re-education’ centres“, in what China claims is a clampdown on religious extremism.
Those who have spent time in them, have however claimed that they were forced to undergo an intensive indoctrination programme, urged to renounce Islam and instead heap praise on the Chinese Communist Party.
One former inmate claimed Muslim inmates were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.