The scope of Chinese social engineering in the western province of Xinjiang is amazing and appalling. The province, home to the non-Chinese Uighur people, most of the Muslim, is now subject to surveillance and “re-education”on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.
Now Bellingcat, the online investigative site, says the Chinese government is systematically dismantling the province’s mosques.
From The Guardian
more than two dozen Islamic religious sites that have been partly or completely demolished in Xinjiang since 2016, according to an investigation by the Guardian and open-source journalism site Bellingcat that offers new evidence of large-scale mosque razing in the Chinese territory where rights groups say Muslim minorities suffer severe religious repression. Using satellite imagery, the Guardian and Bellingcat open-source analyst Nick Waters checked the locations of 100 mosques and shrines identified by fo
The conclusions rely on satellite photography with confirmation from current and former residents. The Chinese government says Muslims in the province have freedom of religion. But the scale of the de-construction found in a survey of 91 mosques and shrine sites suggests a deliberate and coordinated effort that could have only emanated from the Chinese government and its Ministry of State Security. .
31 mosques and two major shrines, including the Imam Asim complex and another site, suffered significant structural damage between 2016 and 2018.
Of those, 15 mosques and both shrines appear to have been completely or almost completely razed. The rest of the damaged mosques had gatehouses, domes, and minarets removed.
A further nine locations identified by former Xinjiang residents as mosques, but where buildings did not have obvious indicators of being a mosque such as minarets or domes, also appeared to have been destroyed.
The goal, it seems, is to bend the local culture to agenda of the Chinese government.
Beijing is open about its goal of “sinicising” religions like Islam and Christianity to better fit China’s “national conditions”. In January, China passed a five-year plan to “guide Islam to be compatible with socialism”. In a speech in late March, party secretary ChenQuanguo who has overseen the crackdown since 2016said the government in Xinjiang must “improve the conditions of religious places to guide “religion and socialism to adapt to each other”.
Removing Islamic buildings or features is one way of doing that, according to researchers.
“The Islamic architecture of Xinjiang, closely related to Indian and Central Asian styles, puts on public display the region’s links to the wider Islamic world,” said David Brophy, a historian of Xinjiang at the University of Sydney. “Destroying this architecture serves to smooth the path for efforts to shape a new ‘sinicised’ Uighur Islam.”
Researchers say the destruction of shrines that were once sites of mass pilgrimages, a key practice for Uighur Muslims, represent a new form of assault on their culture.