China’s Urumqi takes aim at ‘extremist’ religious practices

A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 10 October 2018
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China’s Urumqi takes aim at ‘extremist’ religious practices

  • Urumqi is currently taking action against the so-called “pan-Halal tendency”
  • Demands by Chinese Muslims that "things be halal" had been fueling hostility among other locals

SHANGHAI, Oct 10 : Urumqi, capital of the largely Muslim Chinese region of Xinjiang, will crack down on activities that blur the boundary between religion and secular life and encourage “extremism,” the local government said.
During a meeting on Monday, local Communist leaders said they would also require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism and speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public, according to a notice posted on the official Wechat account of the Urumqi procuratorate.
China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.
But Beijing has denied accusations that it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.
Urumqi is currently taking action against the so-called “pan-Halal tendency,” a name given to the demands by Muslims that products such as milk or toothpaste comply with Islamic rituals.
The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” were fueling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.
Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.
Beijing has repeatedly cracked down on unauthorized religious activity, and last month issued new draft guidelines to crack down on the illegal online dissemination of religious information.


Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

Updated 41 min 35 sec ago
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Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

  • Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil

JAKARTA: Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and EU to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over legislation that will phase out palm oil manufacturing in the region, risking jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.
“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.
“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.
Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.
Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.
“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.
Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.
“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.
Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.
On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.
“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.
“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.