China bans religion in Xinjiang, plans to fine offenders

China's Xinjiang region has banned the practice of religion in government buildings and will fine those who use the Internet to “undermine national unity,” in a package of regulations aimed at “combating separatism” in the north-western province.

The rules, passed by the standing committee of Xinjiang's parliament on Friday, stipulate penalties of between 5,000 and 30,000 yuan ($4,884) for individuals who use the Internet, mobile phones or digital publishing to undermine national unity, social stability or incite ethnic hatred.

Equipment used in the offenses also can be confiscated, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.

The regulations, which come into effect Jan. 1, also prohibit people from distributing and viewing videos about jihad, or holy war, religious extremism and terrorism in or outside religious venues, and requires religious leaders to report such activities to the local authorities and police, the China Daily reported at the weekend.

"An increasing number of problems involving religious affairs have emerged in Xinjiang," said Ma Mingcheng, deputy director of the Xinjiang People's Congress and director of its legislative affairs committee, according to the Chinese newspaper.

People will not be allowed to practice religion in government offices, public schools, businesses or institutions. Religious activities will have to take place in registered venues, the report said.

They also are prohibited from wearing or forcing others to wear clothes or logos associated with religious extremism, although the types of clothes and logos aren't specified, the newspaper said.

The most recent example of violence in the restive province came on Friday.

Fifteen people were killed and 14 injured when a group in Shache county in Xinjiang threw explosives into a crowded street where vendors were selling food, Xinhua reported on Saturday.

In March, knife-wielding militants from Xinjiang killed 31 people and injured 141 at the Kunming railway station in southwest Yunnan province in what the government called a premeditated attack.