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Chinese university stresses ban on religious activity on campus

(Global Times)    07:58, May 23, 2018

‘Practices should not affect lives of non-believers’

A university in Northwest China's Gansu Province stressed a ban on religious activities on campus during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid a clamor that religious practices be regulated and should not "disturb public order."

"Northwest Minzu University does not allow any religious activity on campus because of the principle of separation of education and religion," Gao Zhiping, head of the university's publicity department in Gansu's capital city Lanzhou, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Aside from members of the Communist Party of China or Communist Youth League of China, students have the right to practice their beliefs in accordance with law at religious sites outside the campus," Gao said.

Gao's remarks come following online complaints allegedly made by university students, who said their preparations for the semester's final exams were "severely disturbed" after some Muslim students started praying at 3:00 am on campus. They also accused the university of "allowing the religion to infiltrate the campus."

Gao denied the existence of such complaints, insisting the university strictly bans religious activities.

Last week, the Gansu Institute of Political Science and Law revoked a notice that allows Muslim students to leave and enter their dormitory from 2:30 to 4:00 am during Ramadan, students said it would affect their lives and studies.

The school said on its Sina Weibo account that it has always banned students for conducting religious activities on campus and that the regulation has never been breached.

"School staff are responsible for keeping religious activities out of the campus, as the school is not a religious site," Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Though religious freedom is a constitutional right in China, religions should be practiced in accordance with the law and should not affect the lives of non-believers, Xiong stressed.

China's newly revised regulation on religious affairs, which took effect in February, bans religious practices and activities in schools and other educational institutions, except at religious schools.

Residents around mosques also complain about being "disturbed." According to a notice released by a grand mosque in Shadian, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, the morning wake-up call from its loudspeaker is set at around 3:40 am and lasts for 10 minutes.

The call to prayer, recited at prescribed times of the day at mosques, is a centuries-old tradition. The ritual itself is not forbidden and Muslims are free to practice their religion across China.

The prayer ritual is normally repeated five times a day, with a morning prayer at dawn.

As China accelerates its urbanization process, which makes cities more crowded, public security and religious departments in China should further regulate religious practices and avoid public disturbances or situations that could trigger conflicts, Xiong said.

For instance, Shanghai's religious authorities said last week that they implemented measures to ensure that activities are "limited within mosques, do not disturb the public, and are safe and orderly."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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