News"Lie of the century". China's outrage and satellite images reveal the truth

"Lie of the century". China's outrage and satellite images reveal the truth

Chinese Muslims
Chinese Muslims
Images source: © Getty Images | Zhang Peng
ed. PJM
7:56 PM EST, November 22, 2023

Mosques are disappearing across China, alarming human rights defenders who have presented satellite images as proof. As Chinese leader Xi Jinping carries on with the sinicization of religious minorities, they raise their voices in opposition.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization reported on Wednesday that mosques in the north-central provinces are being demolished under Xi Jinping's government, as stated by the Associated Press. The goal is to sinicize Chinese religious minorities. In Ningxia and Gansu provinces, authorities frequently demolish, shut down, and appropriate mosques for secular uses. The HRW defends that these actions, inferred from satellite images, are part of a larger effort to limit the practice of Islam in China.

In 2016, President Xi Jinping called for all religions in China to be sinicized, sparking widespread repression against minorities. This has primarily affected the western Xinjiang region, home to over 11 million Uighurs and other Muslim communities. A United Nations report last year suggested that China may have committed "crimes against humanity" in Xinjiang, pointing to the extrajudicial internment camps where at least a million Uighurs, Huis, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz have been detained. Beijing refutes these claims, dismissing them as "the lie of the century".

The Communist Party of China released a document in April 2018 also mentioning the "consolidation of mosques". It detailed a strategy to make Islam more aligned with Chinese culture. Human rights defenders argue that Muslim communities face extensive persecution in China, which is expanding to an increasing number of provinces.

HRW asserts that China has altered thousands of mosques, removing their domes and minarets to "erase evidence" of foreign religious influences. From 2019 to 2021, authorities dismantled the domes and minarets of all seven mosques in several Ningxia region villages. Moreover, the main prayer halls of three of these mosques were razed, as depicted in images and videos published online by Human Rights Watch.

According to press reports, the Chinese government has shut down or converted mosques throughout the country. Reactions to these actions have sometimes incited strong public responses. As reported by the Associated Press, in May of this year, protesters in the southern Yunnan province city of Nagu clashed with police over the planned demolition of a mosque's dome.

The condition of six mosques in the village of Liaoqiao in December 2022. Human Rights Watch / Maxar
The condition of six mosques in the village of Liaoqiao in December 2022. Human Rights Watch / Maxar© HRW | HRW
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