Authorities in China's Xinjiang region have banned Muslims from using their language in schools. Communist party officials in the northwestern Chinese province have prohibited the use of the Uighur language from being used in pre-schools and secondary schools.

This comes amid tighter strict restrictions on Muslims in the region including a ban on fasting during Ramadan earlier this year, as the state cracks down on Islamic culture in favour of Chinese values. Recent years have seen bloody clashes in the region between the government and some locals, which the Communist party has blamed on Islamist militants and separatists.

Xinjiang is a sprawling region of deserts and mountains covering 635,000 square miles, making it four times the size of California. The Islamic Uighur population make up around 9 million of the region's 22 million inhabitants, according to Chinese census data.

But unofficial sources claim Muslims constitute a majority in the region with a population of 15 million. The Uighur population is ethnically distinct from China's majority Han population.

A notice on the website of Xinjiang regional government said last month that the move in schools is meant to "fully popularise the national common language". Signs around schools also have to be changed to Mandarin when the move comes into effect in September, in time for the new school year.

Ramadan ban

An Uighur official told Radio Free Asia that "even the Uighur textbooks will be replaced with Chinese textbooks from inland China".

Although the Chinese government recognises 56 different ethnic minorities – including Uighurs – in the country, it has tried to crack down on different cultures to create a homogenous society under Communism.

Many Muslims in the country say they feel victimised by the government who have tightened control on the region. Some Muslims in the region accuse, the Chinese government of cracking down on Islamic activity under the guise of tackling extremism and terrorist behaviour.

In May, fasting during Ramadan was banned and restaurants were forced to stay open. And in November, China ordered that residents of Xinjiang hand in passports to their local police station where they will be kept. Those wishing to use their passports have to apply to the local police station for the return of their documents.

The US-based Uighur American Association said: "Uighurs have experienced serious human rights violations at the hands of the Chinese government for decades, including arbitrary and incommunicado detention and restrictions to their religious freedom and social and cultural rights."