China’s systematic crackdown on mosques sparks concerns over religious freedom and human rights

In a new report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused China of closing, destroying, and repurposing mosques in a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in the country. This crackdown has raised concerns about religious freedom and human rights violations, particularly against the Muslim minority population in China.

According to HRW, there are approximately 20 million Muslims in China, which officially claims to allow religious freedom despite being an atheist state. However, recent years have seen an increased crackdown on organized religion, with Beijing seeking greater control over religious practices.

The report highlights the closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques in regions with significant Muslim populations, such as Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, and Ningxia. In the village of Liaoqiao in Ningxia, three out of six mosques have been stripped of their domes and minarets, while the rest have seen their main prayer halls destroyed. Satellite footage obtained by HRW even shows a round dome being replaced by a Chinese-style pagoda at a mosque in Liaoqiao village.

HRW estimates that about 1,300 mosques in Ningxia have been closed or converted since 2020, which accounts for a third of the total number of mosques in the region. This systematic targeting of mosques is part of the broader “Sinicisation” policy implemented by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, which aims to align religious beliefs with Chinese culture and ideology.

While the Chinese government claims that the consolidation of mosques helps reduce the economic burden on Muslims, critics argue that it is an attempt to redirect their loyalty towards the Communist Party. Hui Muslims, one of the two major Muslim ethnic groups in China, have expressed concerns about the “Sinicisation” campaigns and the narrowing space for practicing their religion.

Human rights activists and Muslim leaders around the world have called for international attention and action against these human rights abuses. Elaine Pearson, HRW’s Asia director, emphasized the need for Arab and Muslim leaders to raise concerns and ask questions about China’s actions.

The Chinese government has faced accusations of human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, with reports of mass internment camps, forced labor, and cultural assimilation programs. The closure and destruction of mosques in other regions add to the evidence of systematic repression and discrimination against Muslims in China.

It is important for the international community to monitor and pressurize China to uphold religious freedom and protect the rights of religious minorities. Human rights organizations should continue to investigate and document these abuses, while governments and international bodies should consider imposing sanctions or diplomatic measures to address this issue.

In conclusion, the systematic crackdown on mosques in China signals a concerning infringement on religious freedom and human rights. The international community must take notice and action to ensure that China respects the rights of its Muslim population and upholds religious freedom as a fundamental principle of human rights.