Muslims outside Xinjiang face growing suppression, as the CCP removes symbols of their faith, controls mosques, executing its five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam.
by Wang Yichi
The suppression of Muslims is not limited to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region anymore – the CCP has extended its repressive measures to other parts of China. Hui Muslims in the central province of Henan and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the northwest are hit especially hard, as the government implements its five-year plan to “sinicize” all Muslims outside Xinjiang. Mosques have been placed under strict surveillance, their Islamic symbols removed, preaching by imams controlled, and Arabic writing prohibited in public places.
Mosques subjected to strict supervision
In April, a room in an ethnic Hui primary school in Xiguan village in Bo’ai county, administered by Henan’s Jiaozuo city, was converted into a police affairs office. It is only 20 meters away from a mosque in the village.
“They’re conducting surveillance on the mosque,” a local Muslim explained.
The local government has assigned 12 “red armband” personnel for daily patrols in two shifts to monitor the mosque. Outside the mosque, three signs have been posted, reading, “No jamaats from anywhere are accepted at this mosque” (a jamaat in this context refers to someone who goes around promoting Islam); “Three Must-Reports: Foreigners engaged in preaching must be reported, jamaats must be reported, and suspicious persons must be reported”; “Three Nots: Jamaat personnel must not be invited, must not be received, and must not be allowed to stay overnight.”
In April, three Muslims from the northern province of Shanxi traveled to Henan’s Jiaozuo city to buy a car. They went to a mosque in Xiguan village to worship in the evening but were soon questioned by government officials.
“The government doesn’t allow Muslims to visit each other and communicate freely,” a Muslim told Bitter Winter, dismayed with the government’s suppression of local Muslims. He added that the authorities have installed over 100 surveillance cameras in Xiguan village to watch over the Hui community.
Local imams speak with great caution when preaching, lest they are punished for saying the wrong thing. Imams must submit for Religious Affairs Bureau’s review the texts of their sermons, which should include issues related to the “core socialist values,” “ethnic unity,” and “the love for the great motherland, the CCP, and Chinese culture.” Officials also visit the mosque regularly to listen to and record sermons.
Visiting imams have been prohibited from coming to the mosque to give sermons. In July, an imam from another region who had been preaching in Henan’s Luoyang city for nine years was forced to return to his hometown.
“It isn’t just Islam; every religion is suppressed now. You can easily be labeled ‘anti-Party’ and ‘unpatriotic’ if you don’t listen to the CCP and be deemed ‘uncooperative with the government,’” said a Muslim in Henan’s Zhengzhou city. According to him, the CCP is afraid that if the number of believers rises, they will become a force that threatens its power and overthrows its regime. “So, it tries to think of every means possible to suppress people of faith.”
Islamic symbols forcibly removed from mosques
Between June and July, all Islamic-style structures were removed from three mosques in Ningxia’s Guyuan city: Nanfang Great Mosque and Jiulong Road Mosque in Yuanzhou district, and Shaanxi Great Mosque.
China Hui Ethnic Culture Park, a national 4A-level tourist attraction in Yongning county, administered by Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, also lost its splendor as a result of the “sinicization” campaign.
The crescent-moon and star symbol above the dome at the scenic area’s entrance was removed, and the Arabic writing on the exterior wall was covered with blue paint. Even the area’s ethnic Hui restaurant was barricaded off. As a result of the government’s crackdown, the scenic area now has very few visitors, and the staff has been reduced from over 200 to only six workers.
Inside the park, the “Golden Ceremonial Hall,” where the Hui people used to worship, has now been prohibited from organizing religious activities. According to local Muslims, the hall would have been demolished had it not been “sinicized.”
“Foreign religious symbols aren’t allowed in China,” a local Muslim complained. “If all 56 ethnic groups are unified, then there won’t be any ‘ethnic groups’ at all anymore. There is nothing we can do. In China, you have to believe in the Communist Party.”
Arabic writings removed
In August, Arabic inscriptions were removed from the signboards of at least 250 shops in Henan’s Xinxiang city under the pretext of ensuring the “uniform use of written Chinese.” Halal symbols on food packaging have also been banished.
In July, Arabic writings were removed from signboards and menus of some halal restaurants in the cities of Guangzhou and Qingyuan in the southern province of Guangdong. Arabic characters on the restaurants’ walls and their halal food business licenses were also discarded.
“There are no halal symbols on the Hui people’s signboards now. Islamic culture is slowly disappearing from our sights,” a customer told Bitter Winter.