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(Forum 18) – In its survey analysis of the religious freedom situation in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of north-western China (previously known as Eastern Turkestan ), Forum 18 News Service reports on the pervasive state control over the religious life of native Muslims, who make up about half the local population, and religious minorities, enacted through national-religious committees. These committees, part of the administration of every city, enforce compulsory registration and approve the appointment of all religious leaders, who must come to committee meetings. Forum 18 learnt that at such a meeting in Ghulja in August, officials threatened to dismiss a Patriotic Catholic priest if he preached again against abortion. Children under 18 are officially banned from attending places of worship, though Forum 18 observed that this rule is widely ignored. “We believe that children need to finish their education and develop their personalities before they can make an informed decision as to whether they are believers or atheists,” an official of Urumqi ‘s national-religious committee told Forum 18. Contact with fellow-believers abroad remains restricted, leaving smaller religious communities isolated.