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Xinjiang, Anti-Religious Propaganda Targets Herdsmen in Pastures at 4500 Meters Above Sea Level

A policewoman received national commendation for warning ethnic Kyrgyz shepherds against xie jiao and religions that are not officially recognized.

by Zeng Liqin

August 9, 2023

Zenur lecturing a perplexed ethnic Kyrgyz woman. All images from Weibo.

Not even herdsmen quietly grazing their cattle at 4500 meters above the sea level are left alone by the CCP propaganda against “illegal religion.” Zenur Ishak, a policewoman from the police station of Heiziwei township, Ulugqat (Wuqia) county, Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, won national commendation for having traveled all the way to Yuqitashi Grasslands, part of Urukchati township and located more than 200 kilometers from the county seat. The shepherds in the area are predominantly ethnic Kyrgyz.

According to the (hardly believable) official propaganda, it was a personal initiative of Zenur. She was concerned that in their remote grasslands the Chinese Kyrgyz might never have heard about the official policy about the five authorized religions, the illegal religions, and the xie jiao (banned “heterodox teachings,” a word often less correctly translated as “cults”).

Zenur lecturing the Kyrgyz shepherds (note the traditional Kyrgyz costumes).

Zenur thus loaded a backpack with propaganda material, went to the area with a police vehicle and then had to walk more than four hours to reach the herdsmen. According to the propaganda account, she proceeded to ask the shepherds whether they knew about the distinction between an authorized religion, an illegal one, and a xie jiao, and if they had heard about “brainwashing.” One can imagine that the herdsmen looked at Zenur as if she had just landed from Mars. Their life is difficult enough without lectures on “illegal religion,” and their daily concerns are very much different.

Undaunted, Zenur distributed her literature, reminded the Kyrgyz herdsmen that a good Chinese citizen first believes in science, and taught them the distinction between “morally acceptable” religions, i.e., the five authorized religions, and illegal religious organizations, including the xie jiao who, she said, lure their followers by using brainwashing.

Zenur with her “pupils.”

Despite the propaganda claims that Zenur’s lecture was enthusiastically received, in the official pictures the Kyrgyz herdsmen look puzzled.

One reason of Zenur’s strange trip may be that the area borders Kyrgyzstan, where—reportedly in cooperation with Chinese intelligence—a crackdown on unregistered religious communities has been launched in the last months.


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