Growing a beard and a moustache in China or People’s Republic of China (PRC) as they like calling it, has actually landed a man and his wife in jail. As absurd and ridiculous as this may sound, it is a fact. It has been reported that a court in China recently ordered a man to be put in prison for six years for growing a beard and a moustache. The court is in the Xinjiang province of China. It is one of the few regions in the country which has a majority Muslim population.
The court cited that the man was trying to ‘provoke trouble’ in the region by growing a beard and a moustache. Local media reports suggest that the authorities have been trying to discourage people in the region from growing a beard and a moustache. The 38-year-old man who was sentenced to six-years in prison has been identified as a member of the Muslim community called Uighur living in north-western China. His wife too was sentenced to two-years of imprisonment by the court which is in the city of Kashgar, a desert oasis city.
While the man’s wife had worn a burqa and a veil which hid her face, the man is said to have been growing his beard and moustache since the year 2010. The reasons cited by the court for the harsh punishments are quiet vague as the official order states that they were convicted for provoking trouble and picking random fights in the region. A dubious reason which is used with alarming regularity in the judicial system of China.
Local police in the Xinjiang province are said to have been campaigning against men growing their moustache and beard. It is a practice that the officials relate to radical and fanatic ideas. They have also run a campaign called ‘Project Beauty’ for women in the region. It is said to be for women empowerment by suggesting that they should stop wearing a veil and leave their heads uncovered. As practiced by Muslim women around the world, these practices are common among the women of Uighur community which is the main ethnic Muslim group in the Xinjiang province of China.
Reportedly, the local police had warned the couple from the city of Kashgar many times to desist from such practices before they were arrested and charged. Multiple incidents have been reported in which the authorities in Kashgar have arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced many inhabitants who were supposedly breaking the law against veils, burqa, beards, and moustaches. This has especially been the trend since the start of 2015. Growing a beard in China has actually put a man and his wife behind bars.
Various human rights groups have blamed the Chinese administration for oppressing the Uighur culture. This has escalated tensions in the region which is very close to central Asia and is known to be rich in natural resources. Many incidents of violent outbreaks between the local police and residents including a series of bomb-blasts that killed more than 200 people were reported last year. The Chinese officials have blamed religious extremists and separatists for this violence.
Officials in the Shaya county of Xinjiang province are said to be offering cash awards to people who become informants and report any cases of their neighbors having excessive facial hair. In the city of Karamay, people with large beards or those wearing Islamic clothing were banned from using public transport by the officials in August last year. The fact that growing a beard in China has actually landed a man and his wife in jail has astounded people across the world.
By Ankur Sinha