China Bans Muslim Baby Names in Xinjiang Region

Kashgar muslims
DATE IMPORTED:March 30, 2017Ethnic Uighurs sit near a statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Chinese authorities have banned a list of Muslim names for children born in the northwestern region of Xinjiang according to reports.

Officials released a list of dozens of baby names with religious connotations used by Muslims around the world. The ban on baby names existed in Hotan, a region of the semi-autonomous Xinjiang, since 2015, but the ban has now been rolled out regionwide, reported Radio Free Asia.

Banned names include Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, and Medina, according to the Chinese Communist Party's "Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities."

According to an official in the region's capital Urumqi, who spoke to Radio Free Asia, religious names and those associated with regional separatism are banned. Any children with such names would be banned from the "hukou" household registration that enables citizens to access education and healthcare.

"Just stick to the party line, and you'll be fine. [People with banned names] won't be able to get a household registration, so they will find out from the hukou office when the time comes," he said to Radio Free Asia.

"They have received training in this sort of thing over here [in Xinjiang] so they're the experts [on what is allowed]," he added.

China has increasingly cracked down on Muslims in Xinjiang. On April 1 the region introduced rules that banned "abnormal beards" or the wearing of veils in public places, both most likely to affect Muslims. There are also rules on watching state TV and listening to state-run radio programs and authorities have also meted out punishments to officials considered to be too lenient enforcing regulations, according to Human Rights Watch.The rights group says China's policies in the region are "blatant violations of domestic and international protections on the rights to freedom of belief and expression."

Read more: Why is China so obsessed with Xinjiang?

In February, Beijing ordered cars to install GPS so the government could track drivers across the region, citing concerns over violence and terrorism. Xinjiang's population is around 47 percent Muslim, and the tensions between the state and the inhabitants have previously escalated to protests and violence.