Chinese authorities have banned Muslim baby names it considers to be “extremist” among the Uyghur ethnic group in the far-western province of Xinjiang, Taiwanese and US media have reported.

Names with religious overtones – such as Jihad, Imam and Medina – were among the 29 reportedly listed as banned in the newly-introduced “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities.”

Uyghur Muslim Islamic Islam names banned
Purported list of banned names. Photo: World Uyghur Congress.

Germany-based exile organisation World Uyghur Congress presented Taiwan’s Central News Agency with a purported copy of the list last week, saying that the ruling Chinese Communist Party severely violated the human rights of Uyghurs.

Spokesperson Dilixiati Rexiti said that the party banned the names citing their “separatist tendencies” and “religious tendencies.”

A police receptionist in provincial capital Urumqi told US-backed Radio Free Asia that babies given these names would not be able to register a hukou in the city. The hukou is a government household registration system stipulating that only locally-registered residents can receive local public welfare, healthcare and education services.

More “mainstream-sounding” Muslim names like Mehmet were acceptable.

Regulations against ‘extremism’

RFA also reported in 2015 that similar names had been banned in southern Xinjiang, where Uyghurs form a majority.

The province-wide ban, however, appears to have taken place only after Xinjiang’s top legislative body announced a set of 50 regulations to “combat extremism” at the end of last month.

The regulations stated that the activities that would be banned under the grounds of extremism – such as wearing face veils, growing “abnormal” beards, and forcing others to attend religious activities.

Urumqi xinjiang uyghur muslim bazaar market
A bazaar at Urumqi, Xinjiang. Photo: 29cm via Wikimedia Commons.

Violent religion or separatism-inspired attacks occur in Xinjiang, but authorities have also been accused of implementing repressive policies against the traditional Uyghur ethnic group.

“Violent incidents and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang have been on the rise in recent years,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of NGO Human Rights Watch in a Monday press release.

See also: Chinese official demoted for not smoking in front of Muslims

“But the government’s farcically repressive policies and punishments are hardly solutions. Instead, they are only going to deepen resentment among Uyghurs,” she said.

“If the government is serious about bringing stability and harmony to the region as it claims, it should roll back – not double down on – repressive policies.”

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.