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All religions should abide by China’s laws, says state media on mosque standoff

Hundreds of ethnic Hui Muslims staged peaceful sit-in protests after authorities had moved in earlier this week to pull down the grand mosque in Weizhou town of China, reports said.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2018 17:36 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Chinese Hui Muslims pray during Eid al-Fitr prayers at Niujie Mosque in Beijing.
Chinese Hui Muslims pray during Eid al-Fitr prayers at Niujie Mosque in Beijing. (AP File Photo)
         

Chinese state media has said the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) authority should prevail over religion, after a rare standoff between the Hui Muslim community and police delayed the planned demolition of a mosque in north-central China’s Ningxia region.

Hundreds of ethnic Hui Muslims – who make up nearly 50% of China’s 23 million Muslims – staged peaceful sit-in protests after authorities had moved in earlier this week to pull down the grand mosque in Weizhou town, reports said.

Local authorities then agreed to delay their plan to pull down the illegal structures and hold discussions on a reconstruction plan. It’s unlikely, however, that the government would allow the illegal structures to remain.

“Demolishing the mosque is sure to earn the ire of local religious followers. However, if the local government does not react to the illegal act, it will fuel the idea that religions are superior over China’s laws. Thus, it might set up a dangerous precedence and other religious sites could follow suit,” Global Times, the nationalist tabloid said in an opinion piece.

The state-controlled media hasn’t reported on the mosque standoff and this opinion piece is the only article published about it.

Officials said permission to renovate the mosque was given in 2015 but upon completion, it was noticed that a number of illegal structures had been added.

Floodlights light up the Grand Mosque in Weizhou in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition.
Floodlights light up the Grand Mosque in Weizhou in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition. ( AP Photo )

The mosque, with numerous domes and minarets in a Middle Eastern style, had not received proper permits before construction, town officials said in a notice on August 3, Reuters reported on Friday.

The Global Times piece said: “Chinese people enjoy religious freedom protected by the Constitution of China, the country under the leadership of the CPC. No religion shall have the privilege over laws and regulations of the country. All religious activities should abide by the country’s laws and all religions shall be treated equally.”

“Local authorities need to make religious people aware that China respects religious freedom, but it also needs to educate its citizens on the fact that improving the management of religious activities is an indispensable part of state governance,” it added.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but the freedom to practice religion is restricted by the government.

“It’s clear that the Chinese government’s hostility towards Muslims in China is not only limited to Uyghurs (of Xinjiang),” Patrick Poon, China researcher at rights group, Amnesty International, told the BBC.

“Hui Muslims are generally considered less vulnerable to crackdowns, but this incident proves that the government is determined to use a holistic and heavy-handed approach towards all Muslim ethnic minorities in China.”

Read: China forcing Uyghur Muslims into ‘re-education camps’, violation of rights, says UN

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 17:04 IST

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