Bitter Winter has reported in the last few months on the campaign to “Sinicize” Hui Muslim mosques throughout China. Venerable buildings have been vandalized to remove “Arabic” architectural elements and replace them with “Chinese” ones. In other words, the CCP wants that a mosque would not look like a mosque.
The plan was carefully conceived, and internationally famous mosques were originally spared, as the CCP was afraid of protests abroad that might compromise his strategy to obtain the support of Muslim-majority countries for its repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
For this reason, the magnificent Shadian Mosque in Yunnan was among the last to be “Sinicized.” When the Shadian Mosque was vandalized, Xiguan Mosque in Gansu remained as the last important Muslim place of worship in Northwest China that had yet to be “Sinicized.”
Xiguan Mosque is located in the city of Lanzhou, the capital and largest city of Gansu province, and was originally built between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century under the Ming Dynasty. It underwent extensive renovation twice in Qing times. It was completely demolished during the Cultural Revolution and was rebuilt on the same site in 1990, with the approval and funding of the Religious Affairs Bureau of the State Council of China. The reconstruction project also received funds from the World Islamic Union. The mosque became a source of pride for Gansu Muslims and a popular tourist destination.
In 2020, the CCP had already planned to “Sinicize” Xiguan Mosque. However, the project was suspended after protests by local Muslim believers and reportedly an intervention by the United Front, which was afraid that vandalizing such a famous mosque would damage its international propaganda in Muslim countries and beyond.
The fact that in August 2023 the demolition work has started is an important sign that in the last few years, the highest CCP leaders have decided that the repression of religion should go on mercilessly, no matter how much China’s international image may suffer.
Academics in Gansu reported to Voice of America that they have been summoned by university authorities and told that criticizing and even mentioning the vandalization of Xiguan Mosque online and offline is prohibited. Those who breach the prohibition would risk losing their job or worse. The same prohibition applies to the general population.