Clash Erupts in China as Muslim Protesters Defend Mosque against Demolition

Clash Erupts in China as Muslim Protesters Defend Mosque against Demolition

Tensions escalated in southwest China as clashes broke out between Muslim protesters and police over the potential demolition of a historic mosque.

The Najiaying mosque, dating back to the 13th century, is located in Yunnan province, home to a significant population of Hui ethnic group Muslims.

Videos and images shared on social media depicted dozens of protesters engaging in scuffles with riot gear-clad police officers blocking entry to the mosque.

This clash comes amidst President Xi Jinping’s broader campaign to “sinicize” religion and tighten control over religious practices.

While China officially follows atheism, the government officially recognizes four religions—Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, and Protestantism—and allows religious freedom to some extent.

However, under President Xi’s efforts to “sinicize” religion, authorities have been cracking down on religious and ethnic minorities.

Clash Erupts in China
Clash Erupts in China

According to witnesses who spoke with CNN anonymously, thousands of Hui residents congregated near the mosque on Saturday, only to find a heavy police presence of nearly 1,000 officers preventing them from entering.

In addition, witnesses reported that cranes were already in place, indicating a potential forced demolition, with scaffolding already surrounding the mosque.

Hui activist Ma Ju, currently residing in the United States, claimed that approximately 30 individuals had been arrested by the police in connection with the clashes.

In response to the threat of demolition, residents took turns guarding the mosque throughout the weekend, fearing the destruction of their religious site.

The Najiaying mosque in Nagu, Tonghai county, recently expanded, adding a new domed roof and several minarets.

However, in a 2020 court ruling, any architectural modifications to religious sites were deemed illegal, resulting in orders for their demolition.

Such demolitions have sparked previous demonstrations among the affected communities.

Police authorities in Tonghai County have urged protesters to surrender by June 7 voluntarily.

They stated that individuals who turn themselves in and truthfully confess their violations and crimes may receive lenient or reduced punishments.

Authorities in Nagu township characterized the protests as a “serious obstruction of social management order.” They called on people to report protesters actively.

Multiple arrests have already been made following the clashes, with more expected in the coming days.

This is not the first time Hui Muslims have faced tense standoffs with Chinese law enforcement.

In 2018, a three-day sit-in protest occurred in Ningxia, where thousands of Hui residents gathered to prevent the authorities from demolishing a newly constructed mosque.

The local government eventually postponed the demolition but later replaced the mosque’s traditional domes and minarets with Chinese-style pagodas.

Hui activists have claimed their community is the latest target of the Communist Party’s crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities.

The reported persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang has drawn international attention, and now the Hui community fears they are facing similar challenges.

As tensions continue to rise, the situation highlights ongoing debates surrounding religious freedom and minority rights in China.

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