HONG KONG – Media reports citing photos circulated on the internet have accused officials in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northern China of removing domes and religious motifs from mosques.
The reports, published Tuesday by UCA News, cited comments by Yang Faming, the chairman of the government-linked Islamic Association of China saying that “Chinese Islam must adhere to official Sinicization policies by conforming to cultural norms.”
Faming comments were made on March 10 at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
A few days after the report, photos posted online showed the removal of domes and religious motifs from mosques in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northern China.
People in Yinchuan shared photos of a crane being used to dismantle elements of Islamic buildings deemed to breach the Sinicization directive.
Similar actions were taken in other centers located in Zhongwei, Yinchuan and Wuzhong where Arab-style buildings were to be converted into Chinese-style pavilions.
It followed new religious regulations announced on February 1st, which included a declaration requiring the national flag to be raised by local mosques along with the removal of non-Chinese Islamic symbols.
Many mosque decorations are of Middle Eastern origin, including elaborate geometric designs, stylized Arabic script and the ubiquitous crescent moon and star.
Mosques were further required to adopt Chinese-architectural styles, with all domes to be demolished by the end of March.
Minors, defined as being under the age of 18, were banned from entering mosques to study, including during vacations.
Scholars were told they had to register their residential addresses as well as providing personal details and documentation.
A prohibition was also imposed on the use of loudspeakers for calls to prayer and Qur’anic recitations.
Various sources estimate that Muslims range from 1 to 3% of the total population of China, which is dominated by a special mixture of non-religious spiritual beliefs of Confucianism, Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, and Chinese folk ideology, along with atheism.
The largest Muslim group in China are Hui, whose population numbers about 9.8 million according to the 2000 census. They are followed by Dongxiang, who constitute around 514,000, then the Salar, who form about 105,000m and the Bonan with 17,000 people.
These Muslim Chinese communities are different from the Muslim Uyghurs who live in the Muslim republic of Uyghurstan East Turkestan which has been occupied by China since 1949.