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Monday, November 27, 2023

Lanzhou Mosque incident fuels controversy surrounding China’s policies

The Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque has now become the latest casualty of the sinicization campaign igniting controversy.

In a quiet corner of China’s northwestern Gansu province stands the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque, a magnificent structure that has graced the region for centuries. Built during the Ming Dynasty in the late 16th century, this mosque has not only served as a place of worship for generations of Muslims but also attracted tourists from around the world. However, recent reports reveal a troubling turn of events that threaten to erase this historic treasure.

Sinicization Agenda

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy of “sinicization” has been a cause for concern among religious and cultural communities in China for several years. This ideology demands strict adherence to socialist principles and loyalty to the communist leadership, often at the expense of indigenous cultures and traditions. The Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque has now become the latest casualty of this campaign.

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Covert Demolition and Local Outcry

The CCP’s plan to “sinicize” the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque was set in motion in 2020, with demolition work beginning in August of the same year. While the authorities attempted to carry out this demolition discreetly, local residents defied official orders not to discuss the matter and posted images of the destruction on social media. The response was swift and passionate, with many local Muslims protesting the desecration of their sacred space.

International Repercussions

Initially, internationally renowned mosques were spared from the sinicization campaign to avoid diplomatic confrontations with Muslim-majority nations. However, recent developments suggest a shift in this strategy. The highest leadership of the CCP has reportedly decided to prioritize the sinicization of prominent Muslim places of worship, regardless of potential international backlash.

History of Resilience

The history of the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque is one of resilience. The mosque, which had been completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, was rebuilt on the same site in 1990 with the approval and funding of the Chinese government’s Religious Affairs Bureau and the World Islamic Union. It became a symbol of pride for Gansu Muslims and a notable tourist attraction.

Suppression of Dissent

Amid these troubling developments, academics in Gansu report facing severe restrictions on discussing or criticizing the vandalism of the Xiguan Mosque. University authorities have warned them that breaching these prohibitions could result in job loss or worse. This chilling censorship also extends to the general population, further stifling any opposition to the government’s actions.

International Concerns and Human Rights

China’s record on religious freedom and human rights has long been a source of concern for international observers. The relentless oppression of religious groups, including Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, has led to consistent condemnation from human rights organizations worldwide. The destruction of historic religious sites like the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque only exacerbates these concerns.

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The covert demolition of the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque as part of China’s sinicization campaign raises significant global concerns. It not only threatens a historic and cultural treasure but also highlights the ongoing suppression of religious freedom and dissent in China.