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World Standoff over China mosque demolition

17:06  10 august  2018
17:06  10 august  2018 Source:   bbc.com

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Top Stories. Standoff over China mosque demolition . Officials say the Weizhou mosque did not receive building permits, but worshippers are refusing to budge.

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Hui Muslims pray in Linxia, Gansu (file image): The Hui are one of China's largest ethnic Muslim groups © Getty Images The Hui are one of China's largest ethnic Muslim groups

Hundreds of Muslims in western China are engaged in a standoff with authorities to prevent their mosque from being demolished.

Officials said the newly completed Weizhou Grand Mosque in Ningxia had not been given proper building permits.

But worshippers refused to back down - one resident said they "won't let the government touch the mosque".

China is home to some 23 million Muslims, and Islam has been prominent in Ningxia province for centuries.

But rights groups say there is increasing official hostility towards Muslims in China.

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Thousands of Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition in a rare, public pushback to the. The residents of Weizhou were alarmed by news that the government was planning to demolish the mosque despite initially appearing to approve its

Standoff over China mosque demolition . Officials say the Weizhou mosque did not receive building permits, but worshippers are refusing to budge. Features. 'They are literally coming to kill us'. China hints at three-child policy with 'happy family' stamps.

How did the protests begin?

Officials had on 3 August posted a notice that the mosque would be "forcibly demolished" as it had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits.

Getty Images Hui Muslims pray in Linxia, Gansu (file image) The Hui are one of China's largest ethnic Muslim groups 1

Chinese Hui Muslims gather before Eid al-Fitr prayers: Unlike the Uighurs, the Hui Chinese are ethnically Chinese and speak Mandarin © Getty Images Unlike the Uighurs, the Hui Chinese are ethnically Chinese and speak Mandarin

The notice was shared online among the ethnic Hui Muslim community, according to Reuters news agency.

Many questioned why authorities did not stop construction of the mosque, which took two years to complete, if it had been granted relevant permits, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.

Protests were held outside the mosque on Thursday and continued into Friday, say the reports. Pictures circulating on Chinese social media showed large crowds gathering outside the large white building, which has several soaring minarets and domes.

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And an update to the story we reported earlier this week about a protest over a mosque demolition in northwestern China . Villagers are now saying that five local residents were killed in the clash with police.

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One resident said talks between the Hui community and the government had reached an impasse.

"We're just in a stand-off," the resident, who withheld his name, told the Post. "The public won't let the government touch the mosque, but the government is not backing down."

It remains unclear if the original plan to begin the demolition on Friday will go ahead, or if a compromise has been reached.

An official from the local county's Islamic Association said that the mosque would not be demolished entirely. He told Reuters the government only wanted the structure "renovated to reduce its scale".

There has been no comment so far in Chinese state media on the case.

Getty Images Chinese Hui Muslims gather before Eid al-Fitr prayers Unlike the Uighurs, the Hui Chinese are ethnically Chinese and speak Mandarin 1

In theory, China's constitution guarantees religious freedom, but in practice, religious activities still remain tightly controlled by the government.

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Standoff over China mosque demolition . Officials say the Weizhou mosque did not receive building permits, but worshippers are refusing to budge. Features. 'They are literally coming to kill us'. China hints at three-child policy with 'happy family' stamps.

Standoff over China mosque demolition . Features. 'They are literally coming to kill us'. China hints at three-child policy with 'happy family' stamps.

Christian churches for example, have in the past been forced to remove crosses from their roofs, after the government said the symbol broke planning rules.

In recent years, officials have become particularly wary of foreign religious influences, and authorities have targeted unofficial "house churches" connected to overseas missions.

While Hui Muslims have largely been well-integrated and left free to practice their religion, Uighur Muslims in western Xinjiang province have faced growing government pressure.

Rights groups say citizens in Xinjiang are facing increasingly intrusive methods of government surveillance and control, with many punished for "extremist" behaviour like wearing veils in public places, or refusing to watch public radio and TV programmes.

Thousands of Uighurs are also believed to have been forcibly sent to "education camps".

According to Human Rights Watch, detainees are forced to renounce their ethnic and religious identities. 

But the current move to demolish the Ningxia mosque is indication that the government is now looking to extend control over other Muslim ethnic minorities, says rights groups Amnesty International.

"It's clear that the Chinese government's hostility towards Muslims in China is not only limited to Uighurs," researcher Patrick Poon told the BBC.

"Hui Muslims are generally considered less vulnerable to crackdowns, but this incident proves that the government is determined to use a holistic and heavy-handed approach towards all Muslim ethnic minorities in China."

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