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China investigates officials over Hajj corruption

Cases focus on bribes taken to evade tight restrictions on Muslims wanting to travel to Mecca

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

Published: October 31, 2014 09:51 AM GMT

Updated: October 30, 2014 10:52 PM GMT

China investigates officials over Hajj corruption

Muslim pilgrims revolving around the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Picture: artpixelgraphy image / Shutterstock.com)

At least 13 Chinese officials have been investigated for corruption in drawing up lists of Muslims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj, state media reported on Friday.

Authorities in restive Xinjiang said the cases pointed to bribe-taking by civil servants who manage China’s strict Hajj registration process.

“Some officials have abused their power by changing the list to cut waiting time for relatives,” the state-run China Daily reported.

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The cases, recorded this year up to the end of August, were investigated by Xinjiang’s new political discipline inspection unit, which was established amid a widening crackdown on corruption by China’s Communist Party.

It remained unclear whether verdicts or punishment had been meted out against the officials, who were also not named.

In recent years, the government has barred private agencies from organizing Hajj tours as it attempts to strictly control Muslims traveling to Mecca amid concerns over religious extremism and terrorism.

But complete government control has reportedly made the process more prone to corruption by state officials.

Chinese pilgrims are required to register on long waiting lists to travel with agencies approved by the government’s China Islamic Association (IAC).

Those accepted must sign a declaration “to return as scheduled” and deposit 50,000 yuan (US$8,184), according to IAC regulations.

Some Uyghurs, the dominant minority Muslim group in Xinjiang, have reportedly had their passports confiscated to force them to travel with government-approved tours.

About 14,000 of China’s more than 20 million Muslims traveled to Mecca for the annual Hajj earlier this month, according to Chinese media.

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