China has destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques in the sensitive region of Xinjiang (northwest), according to a report released Friday, September 25 by an Australian research institute and funded by the US State Department.
About 16,000 mosques have been destroyed or damaged in recent years in the predominantly Muslim region, says the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI), a research firm created by the Australian government, in a detailed report. The researchers say they relied on satellite photos and important “extrapolations»: After analyzing 533 mosques (out of 24,000 officially in Xinjiang according to the Chinese authorities), they made calculations according to statistical models.
Most of the destruction has taken place in the past three years and 8,500 mosques have been completely destroyed, the report says. Some others have seen their domes and minarets removed, according to researchers, who estimate the number of mosques still standing in Xinjiang at 15,500. The study was funded by the US State Department, ASPI said. Washington is strongly opposed to Beijing on many issues and has been at the forefront in recent months in denouncing Chinese policy in Xinjiang.
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Long hit by bloody attacks attributed to members of the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, this immense semi-desert territory is the subject of a firm security takeover in the name of the fight against terrorism. Over a million people, mainly Muslims, were interned there in “camps», Accuse human rights organizations. China says it is “vocational training centers», Intended to help the population to find a job and thus move away from religious extremism.
The Chinese authorities regularly claim to want “siniser” religions. This campaign, carried out in the name of greater control of cults, also aims to fight Islamist movements catalyzing separatist sentiment in Xinjiang.
«This report is all rumor and slanderWang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded at a regular press briefing, denouncing “lack of credibility“From the research firm and”its funding from abroad». «Total number of mosques per Muslim capita in Xinjiang is higher than in many Muslim countries”He said.
ASPI released another report on Thursday accusing China of strengthening its network of “detention centers” In the region.