Authorities in Shihezi, Xinjiang ordered the demolition of mosques and later rebuilt some of them as plain-looking bunkhouses without any identifying symbols.
According to an insider in Shihezi, the local government ordered to close down all mosques in the city, allowing only a few to continue functioning. The buildings, however, have to be first demolished and later re-built, with only Chinese characters permitted inside the new mosques.
At the beginning of May, local authorities forcibly demolished the mosque in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Shihezi General Field, 6th Branch, 14th Company, because “Arabic characters were used in the mosque.” In its place, a new plainly-looking mosque with steel tiles on the roof was built. Surveillance cameras were installed at the front and rear entrances of the mosque. The building looks like a bunkhouse with windows, without any indications that it is a mosque: there is no crescent on the roof.
According to a local CCP official, Party cadres are sent to mosques to make sure that the Islam is appropriately “sinicized” – adapted to the needs of socialism. Believers do not have the right to worship in mosques at the time they choose; they may only worship according to the time limits set by the government. Every day before midnight, government officials go door-to-door, prohibiting to pray at home.
Reportedly, on April 10, the Shihezi City Public Security Bureau dispatched more than ten policemen to the city’s General Field, 6th Branch, 14th Company to confiscate the Quran from each household because “it was not printed in Chinese characters,” seizing a total of 500 copies.
Another CCP official who asked to remain anonymous told reporters that the government prohibited Muslims from wearing traditional garments, allowing only camouflage uniforms. Ornaments and accessories displayed at home are forbidden to have Arabic letters on them, anything in Arabic will be confiscated, and anyone who resists will be arrested.
Bitter Winter reported earlier about a confidential circular letter titled “Suggestions on Strengthening and Improving Islamic Work Under the New Circumstances,” issued on April 19, 2018, by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The document stipulates, among other things, to “promote the work of cultivation and training of religious talents in Xinjiang and guide them to adhere without wavering to the direction of sinicization of religions of our country,” with the ultimate goal of putting all authorized religions under the firm control of the Communist Party.
Li Zaili (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), born in Xinjiang in 1982, went to the United States to study at the age of 16. After graduating from university, Li returned to Xinjiang and worked in journalism. In 2014, Xinjiang authorities started detaining large numbers of Muslims in “transformation through education camps.” Learning of that, he left his original position and began independently collecting and organizing information related to “transformation through education camps,” and submitted articles for publication in overseas media outlets. After Bitter Winter was founded in May 2018, Li Zaili became a special correspondent of Bitter Winter covering Xinjiang, Xizang and some other regions in China.