China sets rules on beards, veils to combat extremism in Xinjiang

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China will step up a campaign against religious extremism in the far western region of Xinjiang on Saturday by implementing a range of measures, including prohibiting "abnormal" beards, the wearing of veils in public places and the refusal to watch state television.

Hundreds of people have died in recent years in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, though rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

While China officially guarantees freedom of religion, authorities have issued a series of measures in the past few years to tackle what it sees as a rise in religious extremism.

New legislation, passed by Xinjiang lawmakers on Wednesday and published on the region's official news website, widens existing rules and will come into effect on April 1.

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