China Extends Mosque Crackdown Beyond Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch Reports

China's mosque crackdown expands outside Xinjiang, targeting Hui Muslim regions, as authorities close and alter mosques, violating religious freedom, reports Human Rights Watch.
A Beijing baozong police officer starring at traffic.
Photo: breizhatao/Freepik

In a development revealed by a Human Rights Watch report on Wednesday, the Chinese government is extending its campaign of closing mosques beyond Xinjiang, a region historically accused of persecuting Muslim minorities.

The report, relying on public documents, satellite images, and witness testimonies, highlights that authorities are now targeting mosques in the northern Ningxia region and Gansu province, areas with significant Hui Muslim populations, as part of an officially termed “consolidation” process, writes the AP.

According to the report, this crackdown involves not only closures but also the removal of architectural elements from mosques to align them more closely with “Chinese” aesthetics. This aligns with the broader objective of the ruling Communist Party to assert control over religious practices and mitigate potential challenges to its authority.

President Xi Jinping’s 2016 call for the “Sinicization” of religions initiated a crackdown primarily focused on Xinjiang, home to over 11 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

A United Nations report from the previous year suggested that China may have committed “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang, including the construction of extrajudicial internment camps holding at least 1 million Uyghurs, Huis, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz.

Human Rights Watch asserts that Chinese authorities are decommissioning, closing, demolishing, or repurposing mosques in regions outside Xinjiang to suppress religious expression.

In response to an Associated Press request for comment, the Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized its commitment to protecting and repairing mosques, stating that it ensures the normal religious needs of believers are met. The ministry criticized the alleged bias against China and urged organizations to refrain from using religious issues for political manipulation.

The term “mosque consolidation” first surfaced in an April 2018 internal party document, leaked as part of the “Xinjiang Papers.” The document instructed state agencies nationwide to enhance the standardized management of Islamic religious venues and discouraged the construction of new mosques to reduce their overall number.

Human Rights Watch’s acting China director, Maya Wang, asserted, “The Chinese government is not ‘consolidating’ mosques as it claims, but closing many down in violation of religious freedom.” She described the government’s actions as part of a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China.

The group’s researchers detail specific instances of mosque alterations, such as the removal of domes and minarets in Liaoqiao and Chuankou villages in Ningxia between 2019 and 2021. Videos and images, corroborated with satellite imagery, documented the destruction of three mosques’ main buildings and damage to the ablution hall of another.

References to the ” consolidating mosques ” policy were also found in a March 2018 document from Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, which advocated for strict control over the number and scale of religious venues, encouraging mosques to adopt Chinese architectural styles.

In Gansu province, local governments have similarly detailed efforts to “consolidate” mosques, with Guanghe County reporting the cancellation of mosque registrations, closures, and improvements.

While news reports suggest that the Chinese government has faced occasional public backlash over mosque closures or alterations in various regions, the Associated Press could not independently verify the changes outlined in the Human Rights Watch report.

The text in this article is created by artificial intelligence (AI).
Context, facts and information included in this piece are checked and assessed by an editor from The Postcolonial.

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