UPDATE: After this post was published, the news article citing this news was deleted as was an apology on social media from a reporter claiming to have misreported the story.
A court in the city of Kashgar has sentenced a 38-year-old Uighur man to six years in prison for “picking quarrels and causing trouble” as well as for having a beard for the past five years, according to state-run media. “Provoking trouble” is a vague charge doled out to people Chinese authorities deem troublemakers. In this case, the beard may have been the man’s principal crime.
Having a beard or wearing religious clothing is not explicitly against the law in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region where almost half of the population is Muslim. But officials have passed similar bans in other cities: fully covering robes for women are illegal in the provincial capital of Urumqi and neither men with beards or women with headscarves can ride buses in the city of Karamay.
According to the Xinjiang Economic Daily (link in Chinese), a state-owned publication in the western province, the man not only grew a beard since 2010, but encouraged his wife to wear veils and other religious robes that cover her, despite campaigns in the city to root out “outdated” religious dress. The wife was given a two-year sentence for admitting her wrong, the paper said.
According to the article, city-wide initiatives include getting a group of young Muslim men to voluntarily shave off their beards, and a campaign known as “project beauty” to convince women to opt out of religious dress:
As many observers note, these kinds of policies do little to soothe tensions between the Han Chinese and local Uighurs who feel their religion, culture, and rights are being throttled by the Chinese government.