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Unlikely sanctuary

ICC Note: Muslims report that the Chinese government let them practice their religion freely. This raises questions about why Christians are so regularly arrested for practicing their faith.

6/30/07 China (The Economist) – AT FIRST glance, Yunnan would seem the sort of place a pious Muslim should avoid. AIDS is rampant in this province in south-western China and Beijing ‘s efforts have failed to curb the drugs and prostitution that spread the disease. Moreover China has an appalling record of suppressing religious freedom, including that of Muslims. In its western region of Xinjiang some have taken up arms.

Yet Muslims from neighbouring Myanmar flock to Yunnan . In cities such as Jinghong and Liuku, they sell Burmese gems in shops decorated with Arabic calligraphy and pictures of Mecca . A jeweller in Jinghong, who has lived here for six years, says that in Myanmar “the Buddhists fight us Muslims and don’t let us work. The government is very evil. Here in China you can work in peace.”

No one knows how many Burmese live in Yunnan . Many enter illegally. Official statistics suggest that Muslims make up about 4% of Myanmar ‘s population of around 47m, but that is almost certainly an underestimate. The ruling junta has a history of discrimination against Muslims, particularly the Rohingya ethnic group, more than 250,000 of whom fled from Arakan province into neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1990s…

In China , in contrast, the Burmese find that, as long as they make no trouble, their faith is immaterial….

(Full story)