Thou­sands of mosques de­mol­ished

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

XIN­JIANG: Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have de­mol­ished thou­sands of mosques in Xin­jiang, an Aus­tralian think tank said yes­ter­day, in the lat­est re­port of wide­spread hu­man rights abuses in the restive re­gion.

Rights groups say more than one mil­lion Uighurs and other mostly Mus­lim Tur­kic-speak­ing peo­ple have been in­car­cer­ated in camps across the north­west­ern ter­ri­tory, with res­i­dents pres­sured to give up tra­di­tional and re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties.

Around 16,000 mosques had been de­stroyed or dam­aged, ac­cord­ing to an Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute (ASPI) re­port based on satel­lite im­agery doc­u­ment­ing hun­dreds of sa­cred sites and sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ling.

Most of the de­struc­tion had taken place in the past three years and an es­ti­mated 8,500 mosques had been com­pletely de­stroyed, the re­port said, with more dam­age out­side the ur­ban cen­tres of Urumqi and Kash­gar.

Many mosques that es­caped de­mo­li­tion had their domes and minarets re­moved, ac­cord­ing to the re­search, which es­ti­mated fewer than 15,500 in­tact and dam­aged mosques left stand­ing around Xin­jiang.

If cor­rect, it would be the low­est num­ber of Mus­lim houses of wor­ship in the re­gion since the decade of na­tional up­heaval sparked by the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion in the 1960s.

By con­trast, none of the Chris­tian churches and Bud­dhist tem­ples in Xin­jiang that were stud­ied by the think tank had been dam­aged or de­stroyed.

ASPI also said nearly a third of ma­jor Is­lamic sa­cred sites in Xin­jiang — in­clud­ing shrines, ceme­ter­ies and pil­grim­age routes — had been razed.

An AFP in­ves­ti­ga­tion last year found dozens of ceme­ter­ies had been de­stroyed in the re­gion, leav­ing hu­man re­mains and bricks from bro­ken tombs scat­tered across the land.

China has in­sisted that res­i­dents of Xin­jiang en­joy full re­li­gious free­dom.

For­eign min­istry spokesman Wang Wen­bin said last week that there were about 24,000 mosques in Xin­jiang, a num­ber that per per­son was “higher than that of many Mus­lim coun­tries”.

Yes­ter­day’s re­port comes a day af­ter ASPI said it had iden­ti­fied a net­work of de­ten­tion cen­tres in the re­gion much larger than pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates.

China has said its net­work of camps are vo­ca­tional train­ing cen­tres, which are nec­es­sary for coun­ter­ing poverty and anti-ex­trem­ism, while Mr Wang said the in­sti­tute’s re­search on the cen­tres was “se­ri­ously ques­tion­able”.

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