A report on China’s persecution of Muslim minorities said that thousands of mosques in Xinjiang were damaged or destroyed in just three years, resulting in fewer mosques in the region than at any time since the Cultural Revolution.
These discoveries are contained in an expanded data project by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which used satellite imagery and reports on the ground to map the widespread and continuous construction of detention camps and the destruction of cultural and religious sites in the North-Western Region.
The research center said that the Chinese government’s claims that there are more than 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang and that it is committed to protecting and respecting religious beliefs were not supported by the findings, and it estimated that fewer than 15,000 mosques were still standing – with more than half of the mosques affected. To some extent.
“This is the lowest number since the Cultural Revolution, with fewer than 3,000 mosques remaining,” the report said.
It found that about two-thirds of the area’s mosques were damaged, and about 50% of the protected cultural sites were damaged or destroyed, including the complete destruction of Ordam Mazar, an ancient pilgrimage city dating back to the 10th century.
The report said that since 2017, an estimated 30% of mosques have been demolished, and another 30% damaged in some way, including the removal of architectural features such as minarets or domes. The report said that while most of the sites remained empty, others were converted to roads and parking lots or converted for agricultural use.
Some of them were demolished and rebuilt at a fraction of their previous size, including the Kashgar Grand Mosque, built in 1540 and awarded the second highest level of historical protection by the Chinese authorities.
The areas that received large numbers of tourists, including the capital, Urumqi and the city of Kashgar, were extremes, with little damage recorded, but the Asia Pacific Institute said that reports received from city visitors indicated that the majority were closed or had been converted into regions. Other uses.
ASPI said it compared recent satellite images with the exact coordinates of more than 900 officially recorded religious sites that were recorded before the 2017 campaign, and then used a sample-based methodology to make “statistically robust estimates” with the census data.
Beijing has faced consistent charges – supported by mounting evidence – of mass human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the detention of more than a million Uighur and Muslim Turks in concentration camps, which it initially denied existed before claiming they were training and restoring education centers. Observers described the camps and other accusations of abuse, forced labor, forced sterilization of women, mass surveillance, and restrictions on religious and cultural beliefs as a cultural genocide.
Beijing strongly denies the accusations and says that its policies in Xinjiang are aimed at combating terrorism and religious extremism, and that its work programs are aimed at poverty alleviation, not coercion.
“Besides other coercive efforts to re-engineer the social and cultural life of the Uyghurs by transforming or eliminating the Uyghur language, their music, their homes and even their diets, the Chinese government’s policies are actively erasing and changing key elements of their material cultural heritage,” the Foreign Policy Institute report said.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, interventions regarding ethnic minority cultures and societies increased. In recent weeks, it was revealed that the authorities have significantly expanded the work program in Tibet, and policies to limit the use of the Mongolian language in Inner Mongolia. Government terminology frequently describes the need to change the “reactionary thinking” of targeted cultural groups.