Thousands of mosques destroyed or damaged in East Turkistan

The below article was published by Taiwan News, Photo Credit Reuters

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has carried out a systematic campaign against mosques, destroying or damaging thousands of them throughout the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to a report from the Australian Strategy Policy Institute (ASPI) released on Thursday (Sept. 24).

The think tank said that despite Beijing’s repeated claims that Xinjiang has more than 24,000 mosques, they estimated there were fewer than 15,500 mosques. “This is the lowest number since the Cultural Revolution, when fewer than 3,000 mosques remained,” the report said.

ASPI analysis found that since 2017, approximately 8,450 mosques were destroyed across Xinjiang, and another estimated 7,550 mosques were damaged or had Islamic-style architecture and symbols removed. The report found an additional 30 percent of Islamic sacred sites, including shrines, cemeteries, and pilgrimage routes have been demolished in the region, and another 28 percent have been damaged or altered.

A majority of the sites remained empty, others were turned into roads or parking lots or used for agriculture, while some sites were leveled and rebuilt on a smaller scale, according to the report. The only areas where mosques remained primarily intact were in tourist areas like Urumqi and Kashgar.

To collect the data, ASPI found the precise coordinates of more than 900 sites before 2017, including 533 mosques and 382 shrines and other holy sites. These sites were then compared to recent satellite photos and cross-referenced with census data to make “statistically robust estimates,” according to the Guardian.

According to Reuters, China’s foreign ministry denied the claims made in the ASPI report, and said there are over 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang, “more mosques per capita than many Muslim countries.”