Niya County government, which i located in the Muslim south of China’s Xinjiang region, held a beer festival in the run-up to the Holy month of Ramadan, in a move that exiled Xinjiang poliical activists have called an “open provocation to the Islamic faith”.

Ramadan is an especially sensitive time in Xinjiang, which has seen an increase in extremist attacks over the past 3 years. Beijing has blamed many of these attacks on Islamic militants.

To make matters worse, PRC state media and Xinjiang government websites have published notices and reminders demanding that Communist Party members, civil servants, students and teachers do not fast or observe Ramadan.

The Niya government website says the “Beer Competition” was attended by over 60 young farmers and herders. There were pictures of women dancing in front of a stage and men downing alcohol in front of cameras.

“This beer competition was varied and entertaining,” the government website wrote. It also added that cash rewards of up to 1,000 yuan (S$217) were given to competition winners.

Xinjiang’s regional state mouth piece picked up this website article last week. It described the aim of the festival as “to use modern culture to brighten up the village’s cultural life, squeeze the space for illegal religious promotion … and guarantee the village’s harmony and stability.”

It also quoted one villager as saying: “This activity that’s been organised is great, livening up the busy farming seasons and banishing our tiredness. I’m going to drink up, and I’ll definitely get a top prize to take home and make my wife happy.”

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