October 1, 2023

Protesters clash with police in China over partial demolition of mosque

2 min read

Hundreds of police have clashed with protesters in a Muslim town in south-west China amid anger at plans to partially dismantle a 14th-century mosque.

The unrest broke out on Saturday, seemingly in response to attempts by the authorities to dismantle parts of Najiaying mosque in Nagu, a town in Yunnan province.

In 2020, a court ruled that recent additions to the mosque, including a domed roof and minarets, were illegal and should be removed. But when the deconstruction work started over the weekend, local people in Nagu, which is populated by the Hui ethnic group, a predominantly Muslim minority, objected, temporarily halting the works.

Videos posted on western social media showed police with riot shields and protective gear clashing with hundreds of protesters outside the mosque. Some of the protesters were throwing chairs and stones. Several people were reportedly arrested.

Another video posted on Twitter showed a man in handcuffs with bruising on his chest, while a woman could be heard complaining about his treatment.

On Sunday, local police issued a statement acknowledging the unrest and giving protesters until 6 June to turn themselves in.

Discussion of the incident on Chinese social media was swiftly censored. Searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, for “Najiaying mosque” returned few results, with only pro-government comments left online. Using the hashtag #Najiaying, one Weibo user wrote: “I don’t want to say too much, I just want to say: I strongly support the national policy, and I hope that the state will not spare any wolfish extremists who intend to impact the law.”

The Hui people are China’s third biggest ethnic minority. Unlike China’s other main Muslim ethnic group, the Uyghurs, Hui people speak Mandarin and are seen as being more assimilated with the Han majority.

But Hui communities have still been targeted by the Chinese government. In 2015, Xi Jinping, China’s president, said the growing number of religious believers in the country should be treated with caution.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but in recent years the government has tightened its grip on religious expression, particularly among Muslims. In 2018, hundreds of Hui Muslims in Ningxia, a Hui region in central China, staged a sit-in at a mosque to prevent its demolition. The mosque survived but authorities still removed many of the domed minarets.

ur of starting peace negotiations.”

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