Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China’s policy of “sinicisation” of the cultural traditions of the country’s minorities does not stop at religion but includes, in the case of the Uyghurs, home furnishings.
Local sources report that the authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are ordering members of the Turkic Muslim ethnic group to “modernise” the interiors of their homes by getting rid of traditional furniture and replacing it with more Chinese furnishings, largely to the benefit of Han Chinese businesses.
Human rights groups say that in recent months, XUAR officials have been promoting the Sanxin Huodong (Three News) campaign to force Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities to abandon rugs and cushions in favour of sofas, beds and desks.
The new policy stems from an initiative for which the authorities have allocated over 4 billion yuan (US$ 575 million) so as to “modernise” the lifestyles of local residents.
This involves destroying elements of traditional Uyghur design such as mihrabs, ornate domed niches built into walls or ceilings to denote the correct direction to pray to Makkah.
Those who do not follow the directives risk being labelled “religious extremists” and locked up in what human rights and international organisations describe as internment camps, which China calls “training centres”.
According to the United Nations (UN), since April 2017 Chinese authorities have detained over a million Uyghurs and members of Turkic Muslim minorities.
Rights groups say that the new beds that Uyghurs must place in their homes to comply with the new legislation are often used by “relatives”, i.e. Han Chinese officials, Muslim families must host in their homes to share information and political opinions.
This is part of the ‘Pair Up and Become Family’ campaign launched in the XUAR in late 2017. It entails male Han Chinese officials living with Uyghur families.
These “relatives” are tasked with monitoring what happens in the homes and sleeping in the same beds as the wives of those detained in internment camps.
Families who refuse to take part in study sessions or other activities with officials are subject to additional restrictions.