TEHRAN (IQNA) – Authorities in Beijing have shut down a well-known Islamic bookstore and publishing house and detained its founder on "terrorism" charges amid a nationwide security operation ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly congress this month.
An employee who answered the phone at the Qingzhen Bookstore
in Beijing's Haidian district on Tuesday confirmed the move.
"We, the bookstore, have closed," the former
employee said. "We are no longer in operation and I am no longer an
"I don't know the details of the situation, though."
Store owner Ma Yinglong, a member of the Dongxiang ethnic
group from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, is currently being detained on
suspicion of "terrorist activities," rights activist Suleiman
Gu told RFA.
And a Hui Muslim who asked to remain anonymous said Ma had
already been detained for more than a year, before being released under a
suspended sentence handed down by the Haidian District People's Court for
"illegal business activities."
The owner was already under house arrest when he was taken
away on Oct. 6, Gu said.
The Qingzhen Bookstore publishes books about Islam and
related topics, which it sells on its IslamBook.net website.
IslamBook.net, which offers texts in Chinese on topics
ranging from Islamic philosophy to the sporting life of ethnic Chinese Hui
Muslims, was accessible from outside China on Tuesday.
The online store also offers a number of Islamic religious
items including Malaysian-made hijabs and other clothing, Islamic arts and
crafts and halal food items.
Rights activist Liu Xinglian, a former head of the Islamic
Association in the southern island province of Hainan, said the authorities are
now explicitly linking religion and "terrorism," in the hope of
preventing more peaceful dissidents like jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti from
speaking out against government policy in Xinjiang.
"They will use trumped-up charges to frame people and
suppress them, so [Ma's detention] isn't surprising," Liu said.
An outspoken economics professor who regularly highlighted
the religious and cultural persecution of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic
minority in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, Tohti was handed a life sentence
on Sept. 23, 2014 following a two-day trial.
The complete version of the ruling has never been made
public, but the court decision cited Tohti’s interviews with overseas Uyghur,
Chinese, and English-language media outlets, his commentaries on events
concerning Uyghurs in Xinjiang, his criticism of Beijing’s ethnic policies, and
his founding and running of the Chinese-language website Uighurbiz.net, which
was shut down by authorities in 2014.
"This case is similar to that of Ilham Tohti," Liu
said. "There are certain issues that they don't want to put out there, so
they find an excuse to suppress the person instead."
The closure of the bookstore comes amid a huge nationwide
"stability maintenance" operation that has seen the mass confiscation
of Qurans and other religious items from ethnic minority Muslims in Xinjiang,
and a ban on ethnic minority Uyghurs from hotels nationwide ahead of the 19th
Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 18.
The government has also stepped up control over religious
activities, meting out harsher punishments for unsanctioned religious
activities and stepping up supervision of religious groups in a bid to
"block extremism" and tackle "terrorism."
New rules ban the use of religion as "a tool to sabotage
national security, social order or China’s education system, or to damage
ethnic unity or carry out terrorist activities."