Thousands in China mosque standoff over demolition plan

BEIJING (AP) — Thousands of Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its deliberate demolition in a uncommon, public pushback to the federal government’s efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced within the nation.

A big crowd of Hui folks, a Muslim ethnic minority, started congregating on the towering Grand Mosque within the city of Weizhou on Thursday, native Hui residents instructed The Associated Press by telephone.

“People are in loads of ache,” stated Ma Sengming, a 72-year-old man who was on the protest from Thursday morning till Friday afternoon. “Many folks have been crying. We can’t perceive why that is occurring.”

Ma stated the group shouted “Protect religion in China!” and “Love the nation, love the religion!”

The protest comes as religion teams that have been largely tolerated previously have seen their freedoms shrink as the federal government seeks to “Sinicize” religions by making the trustworthy prioritize allegiance to the formally atheist ruling Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, Christian church buildings have been shut down and Bibles seized, and Tibetan kids have been moved from Buddhist temples to colleges.

The residents of Weizhou have been alarmed by information that the federal government was planning to demolish the mosque regardless of initially showing to approve its development, which was accomplished simply final yr.

The city’s Communist Party secretary had even made a congratulatory speech on the web site when the mosque’s development started, stated Ma Zhiguo, a resident in his late 70s.

The authorities deliberate to take down eight out of the 9 domes topping the mosque on the grounds that the construction was constructed bigger than permitted, Ma stated. But neighborhood members have been standing their floor, he added.

“How might we permit them to tear down a mosque that’s nonetheless in good situation?” he stated, including that the mosque conducts prayers attended by about 30,000 Muslims and was constructed utilizing believers’ private funds. Photos on-line present the mosque to be a palatial white construction, with towering columns, vertical home windows and a Chinese nationwide flag erected out entrance.

Officials within the county and metropolis propaganda workplaces stated they weren’t conscious of the scenario. Other native authorities couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.

In May, the county disciplinary inspection fee revealed a discover saying that Weizhou authorities had didn’t correctly oversee the development of the Grand Mosque. As a results of lax supervision, the discover stated, 4 mosques within the county had obtained a complete of 1.07 million yuan ($156,148) in international donations. It didn’t specify whether or not the Grand Mosque was among the many 4.

Ma Sengming stated protesters remained on the mosque by the night time from Thursday to Friday and have been twice visited by a neighborhood official who inspired them to go residence. Ma stated the official didn’t make any particular guarantees, however tried to guarantee the protesters that the federal government would work with them on the matter.

More than 100 law enforcement officials surrounded the mosque, however didn’t try to cease the protest, in accordance with Ma.

Public demonstrations are uncommon in China, the place the federal government is commonly fast to quash any trace of dissent. Under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party is cracking down on non secular expression and attacking what it calls radical concepts among the many nation’s greater than 20 million Muslims.

In the far west area of Xinjiang, following sporadic violent assaults by radical Muslim separatists, a whole bunch of hundreds of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps the place they’re compelled to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the occasion.

Compared to these ethnic teams, the Hui are culturally a lot nearer to China’s Han majority, comparable in look and talking a variation of the mainstream Mandarin language.

But not too long ago, reviews stated authorities have shut down Hui non secular colleges and Arabic lessons and barred kids from taking part in Muslim actions.

James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic insurance policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, stated the proposed demolition of the Weizhou mosque gave the impression to be a part of a latest “way more assimilatory coverage” towards ethnic minorities.

“The final agenda is to erode minority id and create a way of belonging and connection to Chinese id and Chinese tradition,” Leibold stated.

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