China considering nationwide law on halal food

A photo taken on May 14, 2013 shows two cooks preparing chicken at a halal restaurant in Jiayuguan, China's northwestern Gansu province. Cuisine in Gansu is based on the staple crops grown in the region, wheat, barley, millet, beans, sweet potatoes and is known for the Muslim restaurants known as "qingzhen restaurants" which feature typical Chinese dishes without any pork products. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones / AFP / Ed Jones

A photo taken on May 14, 2013 shows two cooks preparing chicken at a halal restaurant in Jiayuguan, China’s northwestern Gansu province. Cuisine in Gansu is based on the staple crops grown in the region, wheat, barley, millet, beans, sweet potatoes and is known for the Muslim restaurants known as “qingzhen restaurants” which feature typical Chinese dishes without any pork products. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones / AFP / Ed Jones

Recently there has been a lot of controversy in China surrounding the labeling of some non-halal products as halal. This not only makes it harder for Chinese Muslims to get halal food but also hurts China’s exports of meat to the rest of the Muslim world. To address this problem the Chinese government is considering a law to standardize halal food at the national level. Consider the following news item from UCA News:

China is considering a nationwide law to manage halal food, a divisive issue opposed by majority Han Chinese, which led to rioting by Muslims in two major cities last year.

Beijing had been studying whether to draft a halal law following a 13-year delay after the State Council ordered the legal provision back in 2002, the legal office of the council said in a report released March 22.

The legislation is “reasonable and necessary” as it relates to “national unity and social stability,” said the Ethnic Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative chamber.

China relies on a mix of regional halal standards to try to meet Islamic requirements, harming the country’s prospects for exporting halal items while provoking anger among many of the country’s more than 23 million Muslims.

Police arrested 11 Muslims after they smashed up a halal bakery when pork sausages and ham were discovered in a delivery van outside the shop in Xining last May. Authorities blamed the incident on a misunderstanding: a delivery van mixed halal with non-halal, not the bakery, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Later the same month, hundreds of Muslims led a rare street rally demanding the end of alcohol sales in halal restaurants in Xian, a major tourist city.

Authorities tried to play a balancing act in both cases amid Muslim anger and an outpouring of anti-Islamic feeling on social media by majority Han, who say atheist China should not pander to a religious minority — Muslims represent less than 2 percent of the population.

A halal law has also faced opposition from some Chinese intellectuals. Earlier this month, Xi Wuyi, an expert on Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote on her Weibo account that halal legislation “violates the principal of separation of state and religion.”

Nationalistic state tabloid the Global Times said she later declined an interview because the issue is “too sensitive” in China.

Li Haiyang, a Muslim from Henan province near Beijing, has been among the most vocal backers of halal on Chinese social media, arguing the government’s failure to legislate on the issue represents discrimination against Muslims.

It’s a position shared by independence-minded Uighurs, a minority Muslim group the government last year accused of starting an extreme halal campaign to oppose Beijing’s rule.

Alim Seytoff, head of the Uighur Human Rights Project in Washington D.C., said the government was overblowing a normal Muslim practice.

“The recent pro-halal trend came as a result of Chinese food producers labeling a lot of non-halal food as halal,” he told ucanews.com. “What is halal is crystal clear for Uighurs while it means nothing for the Chinese.”

2 responses to “China considering nationwide law on halal food

  1. The Halal Market is worth trillion of dollars a year. Without proper authorities to regulate and persecute those that flouted the Halal certification would deprive Chinese goods from entering this lucrative market. Both Hans and Muslim Companies tend to benefit from the Halal logo as the consumer using these halal products would feel confidence in using them. Its very stupid to think that by legislating the Halal certification, the communist party is pandering to a small religious minority. The halal certification not only will promote Chinese product providing an independent Party to vindicate the Halalness of the food but it also promotes China’s relations with the outside world. What local Chinese Muslims will benefit is just a spillover effect. Chinese non-muslim consumers will also benefitted from the Halal certification as there are people watching on the quality and cleanliness of the food. Only the crooked companies who serve already dead carcasses of animals and gutter oil will be worried. If I was a consumer whether Han or Muslims I would support this initiatives.

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