The Hui are a large Muslim minority in China, numbering about ten million people. Unlike the Uighurs of Xinjiang, they are not normally considered a “restive” minority, and have not clashed with state authorities much in the past.
This past week the Chinese government demolished a mosque it considered illegal in the village of Taoshan, in the Ningxia region. According to some reports, protests by Hui residents prior to the demolition resulted in bloodshed, and five of the protesters were killed by police.
The following report from Canadian television talks about the reaction of Canadian Muslim to events in China:
This article from Reuters describes events before the demolition of the mosque, as well as the demolition itself:
Chinese Muslims Clash With Police Over Mosque
(Reuters) — Hundreds of Muslims in a northwestern China village trying to prevent the demolition of their mosque clashed with police, causing several deaths, Hong Kong media and residents said on Tuesday.
Fighting between police and members of the largely Muslim Hui ethnic group broke out on Friday in Ningxia region, adjacent to Inner Mongolia province, after authorities declared their newly built mosque illegal, the South China Morning Post said. Hundreds of residents in Taoshan village confronted police armed with teargas, truncheons and knives, the newspaper said. A Taoshan resident told Reuters he was away at the time of the clash, but that his relatives in the town believed five people, including one of their relatives, had been killed. The resident, Jin Haitao, said villagers believed the dead included another two elderly woman, a young man and two people from nearby areas. Residents of nearby areas complained that telephone links with Taoshan had been cut, making it impossible to verify what had happened. “They were just trying to hold a religious activity but the authorities would not allow it. They demolished the mosque and now they’ve covered over the ground, because there was so much blood on the ground,” Jin said. A man who answered the telephone at a police station in the nearby town of Hexi said an incident had occurred with Hui protesters, but he gave no details. Calls to the public security bureau in nearby Tongxin county went unanswered.
A small business owner in Tongxin, three km (two miles) from the mosque site, told Reuters that the village had been sealed off. “It’s ridiculous, I am a Muslim, and Muslims need a mosque. They are just ordinary people, coming together for religious purposes, not to overthrow Communist Party rule,” the man said. China has experienced sporadic unrest among its Muslim minorities, most notably involving the Uighurs, a Turkic language-speaking people native to the country’s western Xinjiang region. There are about 10 million Hui in China, making them the country’s largest Muslim group. In many parts of China, the Hui have blended in with the predominant Han Chinese culture, all but abandoning Islam except for some traditions, such as circumcising male children and avoiding pork. But ethnic tension has led to some unrest. At least seven people were killed in the central province of Henan in 2004 after a car accident involving an ethnic Han Chinese and a Hui sparked rioting. In 1993, a cartoon ridiculing Muslims led to police storming a mosque taken over by Hui in northwestern China. Uighurs in Xinjiang rioted against Han Chinese residents in 2009 and at least 197 people were killed, according to official estimates. China’s ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but it maintains a tight grip on religious activities and allows only officially recognized religious institutions to operate.
Here’s a report filed by Asia News after the mosque was demolished:
Ningxia: Muslims Against Police Over Mosque Demolition
Hui Muslims living in the north-central and semi-desert province have traditionally been friendly to the government. More than a thousand police clash with residents in Taoshan. About 50 people are injured and 100 arrested, some sources say.
Hexi (AsiaNews) — More than a thousand police agents in anti-riot gear clashed with residents in Taoshan village, near the city of Hexi, in Ningxia, a semi-desert province in north-central China inhabited by ethnic Hui Muslims. The issue was the demolition of a local mosque. Unlike Uyghurs, Hui Muslims have traditionally been friendly to the government.
Local public officials confirmed the place of worship was demolished because it was deemed “illegal”. Sources cited by the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ICHRD) said that 50 people were injured and more than 100 detained last Saturday. Still more information is coming from the remote and sparsely populated province.
Hui Muslims are the area’s largest minority and have traditionally been friendly to the authorities. Unlike Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, Hui Islam is not anti-regime. The fact that on this occasion they openly challenged the regime is an indication that the government’s anti-religious crackdown is intensifying.
Hui religious practice is based on Qur’anic teachings that focus on mosque prayers. Hui Muslims have traditionally shied away from politics or open criticism of the government’s religious policies. In fact, they have usually praised them for their openness, at least, until now.
In the past few years, China has become increasingly concerned that fundamentalism is growing among the hitherto “quiet” Hui and that it could fuel social tensions.
Once known for their liberal Islam, more and more people in Hui areas attend mosque prayers, more and more women are wearing the veil, and an increasing number of young people want to study Arabic and the Qur’an.
Hat tips: C. Cantoni, JP, and Vlad Tepes.