World Bulletin/News Desk
China's far-flung western region of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) is demanding that lawyers guarantee family members don't wear burqas or grow long beards, the latest government move critics say unfairly targets the region's Muslim Uighur ethnic community.
Lawyers in Turpan, an oasis city southeast of the regional capital, Urumqi, have to sign a pledge denouncing "extremism and participation in illegal religious activities", the Xinjiang judicial affairs department website said on Tuesday.
"Lawyers must commit to guaranteeing that family members and relatives do not wear burqas, veils or participate in illegal religious activities, and that young men do not grow long beards," the statement said.
As an "important force" for protecting social stability, lawyers must take a leading role in combating extremism, the statement said, adding that 57 lawyers and six law students had signed the pledge so far.
Since 2001, China has intensified a sweeping security crackdown in Xinjiang, further repressing Uighur culture, religious tradition and language, rights groups say, despite strong government denials of offering the Uighurs anything but wide-ranging freedoms.
The main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said it feared those who did not sign the pledge risked losing their licence to practice law or would face investigation.
"China's judicial reform forces Uighur lawyers into a choice: safeguard the sanctity of their duty as lawyers and lose their personal freedoms, or violate their professional ethics and support China's suppression of the Uighur people," the group's spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, said in an emailed statement.Last Mod: 13 Kasım 2013, 15:57