Police clashed with residents of a Muslim town in China’s Yunnan province over the demolition of a centuries-old mosque. The Najiaying Mosque is a revered place of worship for Mandarin-speaking ethnic Hui Muslims living in Yunnan. Videos on social media showed police in riot gear beating back demonstrators protesting the government’s move.
The Najiaying Mosque dates back to the 13th century and was built during the Ming Dynasty. It was expanded on several occasions and one part of the mosque was declared ‘protected’ for cultural reasons in 2019. However, a court ruling in 2020 deemed some of the mosque’s recent renovations illegal and ordered their demolition. This prompted the clash between authorities and worshippers.
After the clashes, local mobile phone service was cut off, indicating a possible crackdown. Tonghai County police asked those involved to surrender themselves before June 6 if they wanted a lighter punishment. China has clamped down on religion under the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping, demanding that religious communities remain loyal to the Communist Party of China (CPC).
China fears that Islam and Christianity can be agents of foreign influence, so it has restricted international exchanges and donations and remodelled buildings that did not appear ‘Chinese’. This has led to a crackdown that will impact several religious communities. Hui Muslims have not been as affected as Uyghurs in Xinjiang, but the recent clashes show that the space for cooperation could be shrinking.