A Party official in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was demoted for not daring to smoke in front of religious people, a sign of his timidity in fighting against religious extremism.
Jelil Matniyaz, Party chief of a village in Hotan, Xinjiang was demoted from "senior staff member" to "staff member" on March 25 for his "infirm political stands… and for being afraid to smoke in front of religious figures," read a notice posted on the Hotan Daily's WeChat account on Saturday.
The Saturday announcement comes as the region intensifies efforts to curb religious extremism.
"Smoking is a personal choice, and religious and ordinary people should respect each other, but his behavior of 'not daring' to smoke conforms with extreme religious thought in Xinjiang," said a Hotan official who requested anonymity.
"As a Party chief, he should lead the fight against extreme religious thought, otherwise, he would fail to confront the threat of extreme regional forces," the official said.
According to local religion customs, smoking is not allowed in front of older people or among religious people, Turgunjun Tursun, a professor with the Zhejiang Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.
However, some religious people force ordinary citizens also to comply with the requirements, a senior official who had been working in Xinjiang for years, told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.
In a sense, whether officials "dare to" smoke in front of religious people reflects their commitment to secularization, the anonymous official said.
The official's demotion is an isolated case, Tursun said, adding that the local government should balance de-extremist behavior and local customs in the crackdown on extremism.
Xinjiang issued a regional anti-extremism regulation in March which bans supporting extremism, and curtailing religious freedom and activities.
The anti-extremism campaign also requires officials to inform local residents about some customs that are used by religious extremists, said Tursun.
Other 96 Hotan officials were also named and shamed in the notice for violating disciplinary regulations, including lax work styles, dereliction of duty, and bribery.