A massive campaign against Islam continues in Xinjiang. Mosques built with years of efforts by local Muslims demolished, both imams and protesters arrested.
From February to May 2018, several imams in the town of Hongxing, Wusu city, were arrested, and many mosques demolished. Those Muslims who protested the demolitions were arrested and sent to “transformation through education” camps.
Three Imams Arrested, Still in Custody
At the end of February, 80-year-old imam Ma and imam named Sha, both from Hongxing were arrested by the police. To this day, the families do not know their whereabouts. Ma’s wife has only been told that he was detained somewhere in a “transformation through education” camp. According to a local resident, the “education” facility where Ma is being held is home to over 2,000 detainees who are forcibly “re-educated.” The guards force them to practice writing Chinese characters every day (Chinese is not their native language).
These “study classes” are very tightly regulated. Inmates are prohibited from speaking to one another, and in fact, are not even allowed to go to the bathroom together.
It is believed that Ma’s son, also an imam, was arrested in July 2017, and is still in custody.
Bitter Winter has learned that several mosques of Group 6, Qingnian village, Caoyuan Group, Buerzeng Group, and other locations in Hongxing have been demolished by the government.
One afternoon, in March 2018, the local leader of Group 6 of Hongxing, the government’s task force stationed in the village, the Hongxing local police, and the village’s Communist Party members gathered before a newly-built mosque. They brought in a front loader and an excavator, and ran right through the mosque, causing the waste from reinforced concrete to fall into a nearby river dike. Even after they began demolishing the mosque, they did not explain to the imam what was going on. The police officers threatened bystanders from the village, “If anyone dares to complain, we’ll take away his or her parents and children together with them and send all to ‘study’ in the Wusu Detention Center.”
One local Muslim said that their community had raised 60,000 RMB to start building the new mosque, and that, in total, the construction had cost them nearly 200,000 RMB. They did not receive any external financial help for the construction. As soon as the mosque was completed, and before the devotees even had a chance to use it, it was demolished by the government.
One night at the end of March, at approximately 10 p.m., the authorities demolished the mosque in Qingnian village of Hongxing. It was already dark outside when a villager, Mr. Hong, suddenly heard a rumbling sound, and the power lines over his roof began to shake violently, followed by a thunderous sound. Mr. Hong looked out his window to find an excavator in the process of destroying the mosque. Half a month later, the village secretary brought out another excavator to complete the demolition.
Three Arrested for Filming the Events, Still in Custody
Another villager reported that, when three young men in Hongxing learned that the mosque was going to be demolished, they decided to film its appearance prior to the demolition with their phones. They did not believe this was illegal. However, the Hongxing police suspected that the film was taken to be smuggled abroad, arrested the youths, and took them to Wusu city. To date, they have not been released.
Additionally, the families of the three young men are kept under surveillance by the local government’s task force. They are obliged to participate in the flag-raising ceremony and attend “thought reform” courses. If they fail to attend, the village cadre would immediately go to their homes to investigate.
According to a local Muslim, rewards are offered to those who report unauthorized prayer gatherings. If one discovers any of the “three evil forces” at work (by which the Chinese Communist Party means separatism, terrorism, and “religious extremism”), or detects “two-faced” individuals who claim to support Marx and Lenin while having Allah in their hearts, “offenders” should be reported immediately to the authorities.
The measures generate considerable resentment among the Muslim population, yet only some dare to protest openly, for fear of being arrested and interned in the dreaded “transformation through education” camps.
Report by Li Zaili.
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.