The Chinese police have reinforced their presence in the Chinese city of Nago, after clashes between local residents and security men, over plans to demolish four minarets and the dome of a mosque in the area inhabited by a large number of Hui people with a Muslim majority.
China has deployed hundreds of police and made arrests in a Muslim-majority town in the country’s southwest after clashes broke out over a plan to partially demolish a mosque, witnesses told AFP.
A resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that the town of Nagu in Yunnan Province recently moved forward with plans to demolish four minarets and the dome roof of the Nagying Mosque. A large number of the Hui nationality, which is predominantly Muslim, resides in the region, which is subject to a campaign of repression.
On Saturday, dozens of policemen equipped with batons and riot shields dispersed a crowd outside the mosque that was throwing projectiles at them, according to what the witness said and videos that circulated on social media showed.
A woman who lives there, who asked not to be identified, told AFP: “They wanted to move forward with the forced demolitions, and the people here went to stop them.”
She added, “The mosque is home to Muslims like us. If they try to demolish it, we certainly will not allow them.” “Buildings are just buildings. They do not harm people or society. Why do they want to destroy them?” she explained.
The police arrested an unspecified number of people in connection with this incident, and hundreds of policemen remained in the town on Monday, according to the two witnesses.
They added that people in the areas surrounding the mosque had intermittently experienced internet outages and other communication problems since the clashes.
The Tonghai government, which administers Nago, issued a notice saying it had opened an investigation into “a case that severely disrupted social administration and order”.
The notice ordered all those involved to “immediately cease all criminal and illegal acts” and vowed “severe punishment” for anyone who refused to turn themselves in.
According to the notice, anyone who surrenders voluntarily before June 6 will receive lenient treatment. In response to a question by AFP on Tuesday, an official with the propaganda department in Tonghai denied the internet was outage and declined to comment further.
Beijing is accused of detaining more than a million Uyghurs, Hui and other Muslim minorities since 2017 in Xinjiang province, in a crackdown that Washington and some officials in other Western countries have described as amounting to “genocide”.
China denies the accusations, saying its actions are aimed at combating terrorism.
David Straub, an expert on Hui ethnicity at Britain’s University of Manchester, says that while the impact has been less on ethnic groups outside Xinjiang, many have seen their mosques demolished or “forcibly renovated” to fit into official Chinese perceptions.