Chinese officials have delayed the plan to demolish a newly-built mosque in the country’s North West after hundreds of ethnic Hui Muslims held sit-in protests in what is said to be the largest standoff in Beijing’s efforts to clampdown on Islamisation, a media report said on Friday.
A huge crowd of ethnic Hui Muslims, the second largest Muslim group after Uygurs of Xinjiang, gathered until late Thursday night in the square outside the Weizhou Grand Mosque thwarting plans by the local government to demolish it.
The mosque is an imposing white structure topped with nine onion-shaped domes, crescent moons and four towering minarets.
The county head came to the mosque around midnight, urging everyone to go home and promised the government would not touch the newly-built structure until a reconstruction plan was agreed upon, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The stand-off in the town of Weizhou in Tongxin county in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is the latest and possibly the largest conflict in a recent campaign to rid the region of what Beijing regards as a worrying trend of Islamisation and Arabisation, as the ruling Communist Party doubles down to “Sinicise religion”, the report said.
“Sinicise religion” is a policy introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015 to bring religious groups in line with the Chinese culture and under the absolute authority of the Communist Party of China (CPC). A notice said to have been issued by the Weizhou government on August 3 had given the mosque’s management a deadline to demolish the building by August 10 stating it had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits. If the management committee failed to comply, the government would “forcefully demolish it according to the law,” the notice warned.
But the Ningxia government said after days of negotiations between the authorities and the religious leaders, it had been agreed earlier on Thursday the government would not demolish the mosque, but remove eight of its domes.
Many Muslims did not want to see the domes removed, the report said.
“Now we’re just in a stand-off,” a resident said.
“The public won’t let the government touch the mosque, but the government is not backing down,” another resident said.
Construction of the mosque was completed last year. It replaced an earlier structure that had been built to replace Weizhou’s 600-year-old Chinese-style mosque, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution along with thousands of other temples, churches and monasteries across the country.
A notice issued by the Weizhou govt on Aug 3 had given the management a deadline for demolishing the building by Aug 10, stating it was not granted the necessary planning and construction permits