New reports about the destruction of Islamic architecture and purge of religious symbols from China’s capital Beijing and the northeastern province of Jilin.
by Wu Haiping
Archways and minarets destroyed
Nangeng Street, a famous Islamic street in the Miyun district of Beijing, houses a small community of Hui people. Ever since two Arabic-style archways with domes and star-and-crescent symbols were built at the northern and southern ends of the street, they became the architectural landmarks of the district and very popular with the local people.
In mid-December last year, the government forcibly demolished these two structures, claiming that this has been done as part of the “street reconstruction.”
This move angered the district’s residents. “The government spent time and effort to build the archways, and now forcibly demolished them. This is a waste of money and energy,” a local Hui Muslim said.
Islamic structures continue to be demolished across China. On November 20, local authorities destroyed the minarets of the Northern Mosque in the Chuanying district of Jilin city in the northeastern province of Jilin. According to a Muslim resident in the area, in mid-October, officials from the city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau ordered the demolition of the minarets, claiming that the structures were too high, incompatible with the surrounding buildings, and thus, negatively impacted the overall image of the city. The officials also threatened to dismiss and imprison the person in charge of the mosque if the minarets were not demolished.
Video: A crane is removing the dome from one of the minarets.
Another resident commented that the demolition of Islamic-style buildings and the purge of Muslim symbols is causing a lot of pain for the local Hui population. “Mosques are part of the city’s architecture, and it should not be about politics. The government is demolishing them because it feels insecure,” he said.
Prayer verses purged from businesses
The removal of Muslim symbols is a major part of the CCP’s plan to “sinicize” Islam. According to some reports, from September to December last year, about one thousand businesses in Jilin Province were ordered to remove duas – prayers of supplication or request – from their shops and restaurants. Among them, nearly 400 in Changchun, the provincial capital.
“Government officials were passing by my shop every day, saying my dua, which reads ‘La illaha ill Allah’ [There is no God but Allah], is too visible. The Communist Party does not allow to put Allah first,” a Hui business owner from Changchun told Bitter Winter. The officials took photos of the dua and other Islamic symbols in his shop before removing them. He also said that paper napkins with Hui symbols were prohibited from being used.
Some Hui people from Jilin’s Chuanying district reported that from September 26 to 29, more than 50 shops in the neighborhood also had their duas removed. Officials threatened to impose 5,000 RMB (about $ 700) fines on businesses that refused to do so. Every shop was ordered to hang national flags in place of the duas.
“We went through a lot of trouble to change our signboards, every shop had to spend money on this,” a shopkeeper from the district told Bitter Winter. “Hui people go to restaurants by identifying them through symbols. Some don’t dare enter if they are not sure whether it is a Hui restaurant.”
In September, an Islamic dome was forcibly demolished from a five-star Hui-run hotel in Chuangying district. “Islamic culture has a long-standing history, spanning more than 1,300 years. It is rooted in people’s hearts and minds. This is something that the CCP can never change. Even if our duas are removed, we are still Hui Muslims,” a district resident told Bitter Winter.