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Hui Muslims Clash with Police Over Mosque’s “Sinicization”

The situation remains tense at Najiaying Mosque in Yunnan, where the police has given an ultimatum for June 6 to end the protests.

by Ma Guangyao

June 1, 2023

The protesters clashing with the police in Najiaying. All images from Weibo and Twitter.

Islam should be “Sinicized” in China, Xi Jinping said, and this has a visual as well as an ideological part. Visually, mosques that look “Arabic” should be “rectified.” The process has been almost completed in the last few years, with minarets and domes disappearing throughout the country. Only a handful of “Arabic-style” mosques remain. The most prominent are the Najiaying Mosque and the Grand Mosque of Shadian, both in Yunnan, in an area inhabited by peaceful and well-off Hui .

A 2020 document by the local authorities ordered that they should be “Sinicized” too.

Nothing however happened in Najiaying until May 27, when all of a sudden workers with cranes, scaffolds, and bulldozers entered the mosque area, accompanied by no less than 400 anti-riot police.

Anti-riot police deployed outside the mosque on May 27.

The deployment of the impressive police force showed that protests were expected, but their size surprised the authorities. Rumors started circulating in the crowd that the CCP had decided to demolish the whole mosque, although police officers insisted that only the “Arabic” dome and the minarets should go.

Nonetheless, thousands of Hui Muslims gathered and clashed with the police, who had to shortly retreat on May 28 before coming back with even more agents. According to one netizen, the total number of police and military in Najiaying has now reached 5,000, and the Internet in the area has been shut down.

The police patrolling the village and one of the arrested protesters.

Dozens of people have been arrested but the police gave an ultimatum warning that protesters should surrender by June 6 and may thus hope for a “more lenient punishment,” while at that date they will be dispersed by force and arrested en masse, and will face long jail penalties.

The police “ultimatum.”

At the same time, the police is visiting all homes in Shadian, explaining to citizens that the local Grand Mosque will be “rectified” in June and will become “more beautiful.” They are being warned not to protest—or else.

The Grand Mosque of Shadian, as it is now (left) and as it will look like after the “Sinicization” (right).

Hui Muslims, who are ethnically Han Chinese, were traditionally contrasted with Uyghurs by the CCP and presented as the “good” Muslims loyal to the Party. However, the “Sinicization” process has hit even this quintessentially Chinese Muslim community, generating displeasure and resistance. No segment of Chinese religion is immune from Xi Jinping’s policy of increased surveillance and repression.

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