3 in 4 mosques in China altered or destroyed in national crackdown on Islamic expression

Chinese authorities have altered, closed or partially demolished thousands of mosques across China in a suppression of Islamic culture that has spread to almost every region of the country.

Chinese authorities have stepped up Xi Jinping’s “sinicization” policy by removing Islamic architecture in a campaign that appear to be part of a more extensive crackdown on Islamic religious sites over the past five years.

Based on satellite images, the FT investigation has revealed that thousands of mosques have undergone modifications in “a widespread policy of stripping buildings of Arabic features”.

According to the FT, an analysis of 2,312 mosques with Islamic architecture found that three-quarters of them have been modified or destroyed since 2018. Satellite imagery shows at least 1,714 buildings altered, stripped or destroyed.

Government officials have claimed that these changes aim to “harmonise” mosques with Chinese culture and “foster economic development” in areas such as Xinjiang. But “modifications have been most prevalent in regions with the highest population of ethnic groups that traditionally practice Islam.”

The investigation follows reports from Human Rights Watch and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which have highlighted the destruction and alteration of mosques in Xinjiang, noting an alarming escalation in alterations since 2017.

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