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Friday, February 16, 2024

China intensifies its repression of Muslim communities beyond the Xinjiang region

In the shadow of international debates over conflicts like the Gaza Strip, a different and largely overlooked crisis is unfolding in China.

In the shadow of international debates over conflicts like the Gaza Strip, a different and largely overlooked crisis is unfolding in China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), under the guise of ‘mosque consolidation,’ has intensified its repression of Muslim communities beyond the Xinjiang region. Despite widespread condemnation of Israel’s actions, China’s alleged ethnic cleansing efforts against its Muslim population, including the Uyghurs, have faced surprisingly little criticism.

Sinicization of Religions

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping initiated a campaign for the “Sinicization” of religions, aiming to make them “more Chinese.” This crackdown primarily targeted the western region of Xinjiang, home to over 11 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The recent operations, however, extend beyond Xinjiang to provinces like Ningxia and Gansu, affecting a broader spectrum of Muslim communities.

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Mosque Consolidation

The specific measure known as “Mosque consolidation” is detailed in a 2018 CCP document outlining approaches to Sinicization. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), this process involves not consolidation but closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques. The CCP has allegedly pressured Hui Muslims, non-Asian Muslim populations, to redirect their loyalty towards the Party, using threats of school probation and unemployment. The destruction of mosques aims to discourage Muslim populations from practising their faith freely.

Global Silence

While global attention remains fixated on conflicts like Gaza, critics argue that the silence surrounding China’s actions is due to the intimidating nature of the CCP. Gordon Chang, a China expert, notes that world leaders often cower before Beijing, contributing to a disturbing spectacle that fuels Chinese leaders’ sense of self-importance. The lack of widespread condemnation raises questions about the international community’s commitment to addressing human rights violations in China.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Findings

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute claims that around two-thirds of mosques in Ningxia and Gansu have been damaged or destroyed since 2017. The destruction includes the removal of essential religious elements, such as ablution halls and preacher’s podiums, further restricting the practice of Islam in China.

UN Report and Allegations of Crimes Against Humanity

A United Nations report from the previous year suggested that China may have committed “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang. The report focused on the construction of a network of extrajudicial internment camps, where over 1 million Uyghurs, Huis, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz have been held. The international community’s response to these alleged crimes has been muted, emphasising the challenges in holding powerful nations accountable.

Chinese Government’s Response

In response to allegations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that Beijing attaches great importance to the protection and repair of mosques. They claimed to safeguard the normal religious needs of believers and urged relevant organisations to abandon their ideological bias against China. Critics argue that these statements are attempts to deflect attention from the systematic curbing of religious freedom within the country.

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As the world grapples with various geopolitical conflicts, it is imperative not to overlook the silent but systematic assault on Muslim rights in China. The ‘mosque consolidation’ measures, far from their claimed purpose, represent a significant infringement on religious freedom. The international community faces a moral dilemma: how to reconcile its commitment to human rights with the challenges posed by powerful nations like China. As debates continue on global stages, the plight of China’s Muslim minorities demands attention and action.