World Bulletin/News Desk
The capital of China's far western Xinjiang (East Turkestan) has banned the wearing of Islamic veils in public, the regional government said on Thursday, in a move experts worry could spark more unrest in the troubled region.
The restriction comes as China is stepping up curbs on religious clothing and education for Muslim Uighurs in the region.
Many Xinjiang experts say the outlawing of veils and the heavy-handed enforcement of the rules would further stigmatise the region's Uighurs.
The veil ban was "considered and approved" by the Urumqi parliament's Standing Committee on Wednesday, the official news website of the Xinjiang government said.
It is scheduled to come into force after review by the Xinjiang parliament's Standing Committee before it is formally announced, the website Tianshan.net, reported.
Xinjiang, home to the Uighur people who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence because of repressive policies.
James Leibold, an expert on China's ethnic policy from Melbourne's La Trobe University, said the ban on the veils would make them "more popular as a symbol of resistance and assertion of ethno-national identity".
"The Party has drawn a one-to-one link between these styles of head, face and body covering and religious extremist thought and violence," said Leibold, who is researching anti-veiling practices in Xinjiang.
"It's a very crude and counterproductive way of trying to deal with the problem of terrorism."
Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is China's heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Uighurs.
Last month, Xinjiang said it has banned the practice of religion in government buildings and people will be prohibited from wearing or forcing others to wear clothes or logos associated with religion.
In August, Karamay, a northwestern city in Xinjiang, banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses.
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