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Officials in Chinese city say abstaining from alcohol for religious reasons is proof of 'extremism

A Uighur man sits in a local teahouse on June 29, 2017 in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. The Chinese government has been targeting Uighurs, accusing them of terrorism. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley condemned China's treatment of the Uighurs as being “the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities.” (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Officials in the Chinese city of Hami in the Xinjiang region have told citizens that those who abstain from alcohol for religious reasons are “poisoned by extremism, terrorism, and separatism” and should turn themselves over to the authorities.

What? Why is alcohol an indicator of terrorism?

Alcohol is one of a number of things the government pointed to as possible indicators of terrorism. The refusal to accept cigarettes or government housing on the basis that they were forbidden by Islam was also identified by the government as a warning sign.

“All individuals involved in terrorist crimes and poisoned by the 'three evil forces' are urged to surrender themselves to the judicial organs within 30 days and to confess and hand over the facts of your crime,” the city government informed its citizens.

Why are the Uighur Muslims being targeted?

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority who live in the far west of China in the Xinjiang region. The Chinese government has been systematically targeting the Uighurs, who are cited for not conforming to the ideals of the ruling Communist Party.

A U.N. human rights panel announced in August that it had “many numerous and credible reports” that 1 million Uighurs were being held in what appeared to be a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

China has denied that this internment camp exists, and warned world leaders not to listen to “gossip or rumor.” The Uighurs, a Chinese government official insisted, were being sent to “vocational education” centers to prevent terrorism.

Members of the Uighur minority have been targeted for a wide range of alleged offenses. Any lack of conformity can be seen as rebellion.

In September, Human Rights Watch reported that an Uighur man was arrested for setting his watch to a pre-Mao time zone. Mao united all of China under one uniform time zone, but some people in the remote west of the country still keep track of time using the old system — a difference of two hours. The sale of halal products has also been restricted.

Anything else?

The Chinese government insists that these drastic measures are necessary to prevent terrorist activity.

“If we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root,” Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Nov. 13.

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