Chinese region has fewer mosques and shrines than at any time since Cultural Revolution, says thinktank
Thousands of mosques in Xinjiang have been damaged or destroyed in just three years, leaving fewer in the region than at any time since the Cultural Revolution, according to a report on Chinese oppression of Muslim minorities.
The revelations are contained in an expansive data project by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which used satellite imagery and on-the-ground reporting to map the extensive and continuing construction of detention camps and destruction of cultural and religious sites in the north-western region.
The thinktank said Chinese government claims that there were more than 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang and that it was committed to protecting and respecting religious beliefs were not supported by the findings, and estimated that fewer than 15,000 mosques remained standing – with more than half of those damaged to some extent.
“This is the lowest number since the Cultural Revolution, when fewer than 3,000 mosques remained,” the report said.
It found around two-thirds of the area’s mosques were affected, and about 50% of protected cultural sites had been damaged or destroyed, including the total destruction of Ordam mazar (shrine), an ancient site of pilgrimage dating back to the 10th century.
Since 2017, an estimated 30% of mosques had been demolished, and another 30% damaged in some way, including the removal of architectural features such as minarets or domes, the report said. While the majority of sites remained as empty lots, others were turned into roads and car parks or converted for agricultural use, the report said.