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'China closing, destroying mosques': Human Rights Watch

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 22 November 2023, 14:42 IST
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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused China of a systematic campaign involving the shutdown, demolition, and repurposing of mosques. This alleged effort aims to restrict the practice of Islam in the country, according to HRW.

Contradictions in China's Religious Freedom Claims

Despite officially asserting the allowance of religious freedom, China, an officially atheist state, is home to around 20 million Muslims. Observers have pointed to an increasing crackdown on organized religion in recent years, signalling Beijing's quest for heightened control over religious activities.

Maya Wang's Assertion on Systemic Efforts

Maya Wang, the acting China director at Human Rights Watch, emphasized the intentional nature of China's actions. She stated, "The Chinese government's closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques is part of a systemic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China," as reported by the BBC.

HRW Report Unveils Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

The HRW report sheds light on mounting evidence of systematic human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China's north-western Xinjiang region. Beijing vehemently denies these accusations.

Geographic Concentration of China's Muslim Population

The majority of China's Muslim population is concentrated in the north-western regions, including Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, and Ningxia.

Impact on Liaoqiao Village in Ningxia

In the Muslim-majority village of Liaoqiao in the autonomous region of Ningxia, HRW reports that three out of six mosques have undergone the removal of domes and minarets. Additionally, the remaining structures have witnessed the destruction of their main prayer halls.

Transformation Captured by Satellite Footage

Satellite footage obtained by HRW reveals a significant transformation in Liaoqiao village. A round dome at a mosque was replaced by a Chinese-style pagoda between October 2018 and January 2020.

Magnitude of Mosque Closures in Ningxia

Hannah Theaker, a specialist in Chinese Muslims, shared with the BBC that approximately 1,300 mosques in Ningxia have been closed or repurposed since 2020. This constitutes a third of the total mosques in the region, highlighting the scale of the reported actions.

First published: 22 November 2023, 14:42 IST