A senior British diplomat commented on the demolition of several mosque minarets in western China on social media, which aroused people’s concern about China’s suppression of Muslims.
The Deputy Director and Minister of the British Embassy in China, Christina Scott, posted on Twitter this week two photos of the Great Mosque in Dongguan: one is an introduction picture from a travel guide, and the other is The mosque lacks Islamic-style domes and current photos of minarets.
“My travel guide is outdated. It recommended going to the Dongguan Great Mosque. So I did. The mosque was closed for renovations. (Renovations seem to include the removal of domes and minarets),” Ms. Situ Na wrote.
One person replied: “When I was there in July, the minaret was still visible.”
Some people responded to the old photos of the mosque under Situ Na’s post. The photos showed that the mosque used to have a huge green dome and two high minarets, which combined traditional Islamic and Chinese architectural elements.
The Dongguan Mosque is the oldest mosque in Qinghai Province. It is close to the Xinjiang region. It was built in the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century and has a history of more than 600 years.
Ms. Situ Na noticed that the Islamic crescent sign of another mosque nearby had been removed.
The background of the changes in the mosque is that the Communist Party of China is promoting the “sinicization” of religion, and it is also suppressing Muslims and other religious groups.
Anna Hayes, a senior lecturer in political science at James Cook University, said: “The ultimate hope of the CCP is to eradicate beliefs and movements outside the party.”
“We dealt with Falun Gong in the 1990s[持续的]This has been seen in the suppression and persecution. We have seen this problem in Tibetan groups, family Christians, Muslims and other groups for a long time. “
“In this lack of religion, the CCP believes that the people will replace religion and religious belief with love and loyalty to the party.”
Islam’s connection with the outside world “may be suspected”
The Chinese government launched a five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam in 2018.
According to the plan, the teachings of Islam need to promote “Islam with Chinese characteristics” and patriotism.
David Brophy, an expert on Western China at the University of Sydney, said: “The Chinese government wants Islam in China to look and sound more Chinese.”
Dr. Brophy said: “In this case, the unique domes on Islamic architectures in South Asia or the Middle East have been demolished.”
“This situation is happening all over the country, and it’s not just related to religious buildings.”
A 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated that about 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed since 2017.
The Chinese government denounced such reports as “defamatory rumors.”
Xi Wuyi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences once wrote in an article on the social media platform Weibo that in some impoverished counties in China, the number of “luxury Arab-style” mosques has surpassed that of schools.
Professor Xi said that with funding from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the construction of mosques in underdeveloped areas in western China is increasing.
The Chinese government stated that China’s “per capita number of mosques exceeds that of many Muslim countries”.
However, President Xi Jinping still promoted the development of “religions with Chinese characteristics.”
Experts say Britain is trying to “embrace” China
Since 2017, the Chinese government has been accused of human rights violations, including mass detentions, forced labor, and surveillance in Xinjiang, which they described as actions necessary to combat “extremism.”
With other groups such as Turkic-speaking Uighurs and Kazakhs being subject to the strictest controls, there have been reports in recent years that the religious worship of Hui Muslims has also been increasingly restricted. The Hui Muslims are culturally more similar to the Han Chinese, which constitute the majority of the population.
For example, in 2018 in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where Hui Muslims live, the local government tried to prevent the demolition of a mosque. The government said that the mosque did not have a construction permit.
Last year, British diplomat Stuona posted on Twitter that the dome and minaret of another mosque in Ningxia were demolished. More than one-third of Ningxia’s population is Muslim.
“The purpose is obviously to embarrass the Chinese government and draw people’s attention to this issue,” Dr. Brophy said of the posts.
“Restricting the expression of religious belief in Islam is now a sensitive topic in Sino-British diplomacy. Recently, some British people have been sanctioned by China for speaking out on behalf of the Uyghurs.”
Posts on social media this week show that Situ Na has also been to Tibet. Since taking over Tibet in the mid-20th century, the Chinese government has been trying to “culturally blend” Tibetan Buddhists.
The Dalai Lama called China’s Tibet policy “genocide,” and some Uighurs also used this term to describe Xinjiang’s suppression of Muslims.
This month, a Uyghur “people’s court” is opening trial in London to assess whether the alleged violation of human rights by China against Uighurs constitutes genocide.
“Given that there are a large number of mosques, shrines and holy sites in Xinjiang that have been severely damaged, many of which are important historical and religious sites, countries like Australia need to promote UNESCO and the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS, International Council). On Monuments and Sites and other organizations condemned China and issued warnings to them,” Dr. Hayes said.
The parliaments of some Western countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, have labelled China’s policies towards Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.
The reporter contacted the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Embassy in Beijing for comment, but did not receive a response before the deadline.