Police in China have issued a deadline for protesters who blocked the demolitions at an ancient mosque in Nagu, a predominantly Muslim town in southwestern Yunnan province.
The protesters are accused of “disrupting social order” and engaging in “criminal acts.” The clashes erupted over the weekend as authorities attempted to proceed with the planned destruction.
The Najiaying Mosque, a historic site dating back to the 13th century, had expanded its minarets and dome’s roof in recent years.
However, a local court ruled these additions to be illegal. Despite the significant cultural and religious value the mosque holds for the Muslim community, officials in Nagu pushed forward with their plans to raze four minarets and the dome roof.
Videos circulating on social media showed officers using truncheons and riot shields to repel the crowd outside the mosque.
Witnesses reported that objects were thrown at the police as they tried to prevent the forced demolitions.
The residents of Nagu are deeply attached to the mosque, considering it their religious and cultural sanctuary.
They voiced their opposition to the demolition, questioning the necessity of destroying a building that does not harm anyone.
However, the Chinese government has been striving to “Sinicise” ethnic and religious minorities, leading to increased pressure on the Muslim population.
The tense situation resulted in arrests, and hundreds of police officers remained in the town as of Monday.
Authorities issued a notice, demanding those involved in the protests to “immediately stop all illegal and criminal acts” and turn themselves in. Failure to comply would result in severe punishment.
China’s tight control over religion and its crackdown on Muslims, under the pretext of combating “terrorism and extremist thought,” have had a significant impact on communities across the country.
Mosques have been demolished or forcibly renovated to align with official Chinese aesthetics.