Protests have erupted in the ethnically diverse province of Yunnan, China, as locals clash with police over the planned demolition of a historic mosque’s dome. The Najiaying Mosque in Nagu town, a predominantly Muslim community, has been at the centre of the controversy. The incident highlights China’s increasing control over religious groups and its push for “Sinicisation of religion.” The clashes and subsequent arrests shed light on the ongoing struggle between religious freedom and state control in China.
Tensions Rise as the Mosque’s Expansion Is Ruled Illegal
In recent years, the Najiaying Mosque underwent expansion, including the addition of a new domed roof and minarets. However, a 2020 court ruling deemed these additions illegal and ordered their removal. The decision to enforce the ruling has ignited widespread protests among the local Muslim population, who view the mosque as a key landmark in their community.
Protesters and Police Clash in Nagu Town
Videos circulating on social media platforms captured the intense clashes between protesters and armed police outside the Najiaying Mosque. The footage shows police blocking access to the mosque while groups of men attempted to force their way in, resorting to throwing rocks. Eventually, the police retreated, allowing the crowd to enter the mosque. These confrontations underscore the growing tension between religious communities and the Chinese authorities.
Authorities Respond with Arrests and Calls for Surrender
Following the protests, Tonghai County police issued a statement urging protesters to surrender by a specific deadline. Dozens have already been arrested, and the authorities warn of “serious obstruction of social management order.” The notice also encourages the public to report any further protests. The heavy-handed response from the authorities reveals their determination to maintain control and suppress any displays of dissent.
Beijing’s Control Over Religion
China’s official stance is atheism, but it claims to allow religious freedom. However, recent years have seen an increased crackdown on organised religion, with the government seeking greater control. President Xi Jinping has called for the “Sinicisation of religion,” aiming to transform religious beliefs to align with Chinese culture and society. This approach has resulted in the alteration and closure of mosques, including the removal of Arabesque features, as seen in the Ningxia region and Yunnan.
Uyghur Muslims and the Ongoing Human Rights Concerns
China’s treatment of religious minorities, particularly the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, has raised serious human rights concerns. The region has witnessed the demolition of mosques and the banning of Islamic religious practices. Beijing denies accusations of systematic abuse, but reports from international organisations and testimonies from survivors paint a disturbing picture of mass detentions, forced labour, and cultural suppression.
The clashes between protesters and police in Yunnan’s Nagu town represent a significant challenge to the Chinese government’s control over religious groups. As tensions continue to rise, the incident highlights the struggle between religious freedom and state control in China. The international community must closely monitor the situation, as the fate of the Najiaying Mosque and the rights of religious minorities in China hang in the balance.