China has sought for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and maintain an iron grip in Xinjiang, a huge western region where more than half the population of 22 million belongs to Muslim ethnic minority groups.
Most are Uyghurs, whose religion, language and culture, along with a history of independence movements and resistance to Chinese rule, have long unnerved Beijing.
After a succession of violent anti-government attacks reached a peak in 2014, President Xi Jinping stepped up the crackdown, launching a drive to turn ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities into loyal citizens and supporters of the Chinese Communist Party.
Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been forced into propaganda camps for patriotic "re-education" and "deradicalization." The U.N. Human Rights Panel claims that the number of people detained in such camps in Xinjiang may exceed one million.
In 2014, the Chinese government set up a small-scale re-education transformation center to centrally manage certain unofficial Islamic religious figures and "extreme" believers.
The government hoped to block all kinds of Islamic beliefs propagated from abroad and to ban the interpretation of Islamic teachings which are different from the officially recognized doctrine. However, how to officially standardize the interpretation of Islamic teachings is always a complicated issue of political and religious relations.
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