China is closing, destroying and repurposing mosques, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged in a new report.
The crackdown is part of a “systematic effort” to curb the practice of Islam in China, HRW said.
There are about 20 million Muslims in China, which is officially atheist but says it allows religious freedom.
Observers, however, say there has been an increased crackdown on organised religion in recent years – with Beijing seeking greater control.
The BBC contacted China’s foreign ministry and ethnic affairs commission for comment in advance of publication of the HRW report.
“The Chinese government’s closure, destruction and repurposing of mosques is part of a systemic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.
The report follows mounting evidence of systematic human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China’s north-western Xinjiang region. Beijing denies the accusations of abuse.
Most of China’s Muslims live in the country’s north-west, which includes Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia.
In the Muslim-majority village of Liaoqiao in the autonomous region of Ningxia, three of six mosques have been stripped of their domes and minarets, according to HRW. The rest have had their main prayer halls destroyed, it said.
Satellite footage obtained by HRW showed a round dome at a mosque in Liaoqiao village being replaced by a Chinese-style pagoda sometime between October 2018 and January 2020.
About 1,300 mosques in Ningxia have been closed or converted since 2020, Hannah Theaker, a scholar on Chinese Muslims, told the BBC. That number represents a third of the total mosques in the region.
Under China’s leader Xi Jinping the Communist Party has sought to align religion with its political ideology and Chinese culture.
In 2018, the Chinese Communist Party’s central committee published a document that referred to the control and consolidation of mosques. It urged state governments to “demolish more and build fewer, and make efforts to compress the overall number” of such structures.
The construction, layout and funding of mosques must be “strictly monitored”, according to the document.
Source : BBC