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Chinese pilgrims return from Mecca


09:51, November 22, 2012

BEIJING, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- A total of 315 Chinese Muslims arrived safely in Beijing on Wednesday via the country's final charter flight for this year's pilgrimage to Mecca, according to the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

More than 13,800 Chinese pilgrims have safely returned to China from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, this year.

"Although this year's organization work was very complicated, the administration and the Islamic Association of China won great support from various departments in diplomacy, police, civil aviation, health, finance, customs and other fields," said Zhang Lebin, deputy director-general of the administration.

According to Zhang, the country's 41 charter flights for this year's pilgrimage were operated by Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, and flight costs stayed the same as last year despite fluctuating oil prices and increasing operation costs.

A work group consisting of nearly 60 guides, medical workers and chefs was organized to provide services for Chinese pilgrims, according to the Islamic Association of China.

The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lives.

China has more than 20 million Muslims, about half of whom belong to the Hui ethnic group. Chinese Muslims mainly live in the western provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, as well as the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions.

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