China accused of razing religious sites and shrines in Xinjiang to wipe out Uyghur Muslims
Continuing its attempt to wipe out the Uyghur ethnic community, China in recent years have closed and demolished many major shrines, mosques and other holy structures across Xinjiang that have long preserved the culture and Islamic beliefs of the region’s Muslims, according to The New York Times.
Citing a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), The New York Times reported that around 8,500 mosques across Xinjiang have been completely demolished since 2017 - more than a third of the number of mosques the government says are in the region.
“What it does show is a campaign of demolition and erasure that is unprecedented since the cultural revolution,” Nathan Ruser, the researcher at the institute who led the analysis, was quoted as saying.
Under Mao Zedong, several mosques and other religious sites were destroyed since 1966.ASPI’s report is based on a random sample of 533 known mosque sites across Xinjiang, and satellite images of each site that were taken at different times to assess changes.
Meanwhile, the Beijing government has dismissed the reports on the widespread demolition of religious sites in Xinjiang and termed it as “total nonsense”.
According to China, the ASPI’s report is biased as the institute is being funded by the US government.
“What we see here is the deliberate destruction of sites which are in every way the heritage of the Uighur people and the heritage of this land,” Rachel Harris, an expert on Uighur music and culture at the University of London who reviewed the report, was quoted as saying.
The New York Times reported that China had banned festivals and pilgrimages at Ordam in 1997, and other shrines closed in the following years.
By 2018, the Ordam shrine was leveled, thus, wiping out one of the most important religious sites in Xinjiang.
The New York Times further reported that in the city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang a park has been built where according to satellite images used to be a mosque till 2017.
While some religious sites in Xinjiang have been razed, some have been turned into official tourist attractions.
Last month, Radio Free Asia had reported a public washroom being constructed on the site of a demolished mosque in Atush of Xinjiang province.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)