BEIJING (AP) — A heavily Muslim Chinese province has demanded strict adherence to a ban on religion in schools after a video circulated online in which a kindergartener recites verses from the Quran.
The government in the northwestern province of Gansu reiterated the officially atheistic communist government's rules forbidding the presence of religion in public schools at all levels, saying it was protecting children.
"This video has drawn a gasp from the public, as many people are infuriated," said a statement issued Thursday. "The Education Department of Gansu province strongly condemns the act that harms the mental health of the youth, and demands education agencies of all levels to stop it resolutely and strictly bans religion from campuses."
In the video, the unidentified girl is seen wearing a black Muslim head covering and sitting in a classroom with dozens of other students — apparently all in Muslim attire.
There is no indication when and where the video was taken, but the provincial government statement said it was taken in the predominantly Muslim prefecture of Linxia. The government did not identify the kindergarten or if anyone from the school was punished.
China also enforces tight restrictions on religious participation by young people outside of school, particularly in its culturally distinct western regions where Islam and Tibetan Buddhism are widely practiced.
The government is especially wary of what it sees as the use of religion to promote a non-Chinese cultural identity or independence for Tibet and the northwestern region of Xinjiang.