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Religion must obey Chinese law, paper says of mosque protest

Vehicles are parked outside the Grand Mosque in Weizhou in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, early Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. Thousands of Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition in a rare, public pushback to the government's efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced in the country. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)

WEIZHOU, China (AP) — A newspaper of the ruling Communist Party said Saturday that no religion is above the law in China, urging officials to stay firm while dealing with a rare protest over the planned demolition of a massive mosque in the northwest.

The Global Times said that local officials in the town of Weizhou in Ningxia, a region that’s home to many ethnic minority Hui Muslims, must act against what it described as an illegal expansion of a religious building.

Thousands of Hui people gathered at the towering Grand Mosque on Thursday and Friday to prevent authorities from demolishing the structure, residents contacted by The Associated Press said. It was a rare, public pushback to the party’s efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced in the country.

“People are in a lot of pain,” said Ma Sengming, a 72-year-old man who was at the protest from Thursday morning until Friday afternoon. “Many people were crying. We can’t understand why this is happening.”

Ma said the group shouted “Protect faith in China!” and “Love the country, love the faith!”

The protest comes as faith groups that were largely tolerated in the past have seen their freedoms shrink as the government seeks to “Sinicize” religions by making the faithful prioritize allegiance to the officially atheist Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, Christian churches have been shut down and Bibles seized, and Tibetan children have been moved from Buddhist temples to schools.

Such efforts were clearly behind the planned demolition of the mosque in Weizhou, where dozens of men, women and children milled about on the mosque steps, on plastic chairs and in the large dirt parking lot early Saturday before dawn prayers. Above them hung long banners from the second story of the mosque that read in Chinese: “Stick to directives of Sinicized religion.”

The mosque, an imposing white building lit at night with gold, green and yellow, dwarfs the surrounding dim warren of brick and concrete homes. Its architecture of four minarets and nine domes tipped with crescent moons would be at home anywhere in the Islamic world, save for the large red and yellow Chinese flags fluttering from the ramparts and the wide central staircase.

Authorities were clearly nervous about the unrest. Early Saturday morning, men in plainclothes, including one who identified himself as police, prevented AP reporters from conducting interviews at the mosque and chased them away.

Later Saturday, police stopped the reporters at a checkpoint in the direction of the mosque and detained them for more than an hour before ordering them to turn around, and tailing them with two cars to ensure they did not change course.

The residents of Weizhou were alarmed by news that the government was planning to demolish the mosque despite initially appearing to approve its construction, which was completed just last year.

The authorities now planned to take down eight out of the nine domes topping the mosque on the grounds that the structure was built larger than permitted, said Ma Zhiguo, a resident in his late 70s. But community members were standing their ground, he added.

“How could we allow them to tear down a mosque that is still in good condition?” he said, adding that the mosque conducts prayers attended by about 30,000 Muslims and was built using believers’ personal funds.

Officials in the county and city propaganda offices said they were not aware of the situation. Other local authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

But the Global Times newspaper said in an editorial Saturday that the authorities had to send a message to all religious groups that none of them are above the law.

“Demolishing the mosque is sure to earn the ire of local religious followers. However, if the local government does not react to the illegal act, it will fuel the idea that religions are superior over China’s laws,” the paper said.

In May, the county disciplinary inspection commission published a notice saying that Weizhou authorities had failed to properly inspect what it said was illegal expansion in the construction of the Grand Mosque. As a result of lax supervision, the notice said, four mosques in the county had received a total of 1.07 million yuan ($156,148) in foreign donations. It did not specify whether the Grand Mosque was among the four.

Ma Sengming said protesters remained at the mosque through the night from Thursday to Friday and were twice visited by a local official who encouraged them to go home. Ma said the official did not make any specific promises, but tried to assure the protesters that the government would work with them on the matter.

More than 100 police officers surrounded the mosque, but did not attempt to stop the protest, according to Ma.

Public demonstrations are rare in China, where the government is often quick to quash any hint of dissent. Under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party is cracking down on religious expression and attacking what it calls radical ideas among the country’s more than 20 million Muslims.

In the far west region of Xinjiang, following sporadic violent attacks by radical Muslim separatists, hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.

Compared to those ethnic groups, the Hui are culturally much closer to China’s Han majority, similar in appearance and speaking a variation of the mainstream Mandarin language.

But recently, reports said authorities have shut down Hui religious schools and Arabic classes and barred children from participating in Muslim activities.

James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, said the proposed demolition of the Weizhou mosque appeared to be an effort to assimilate ethnic minorities.

“The ultimate agenda is to erode minority identity and create a sense of belonging and connection to Chinese identity and Chinese culture,” Leibold said.

Wang reported from Beijing. Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.

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  • the government seeks to “Sinicize” religions by making the faithful prioritize allegiance to the officially atheist Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, Christian churches have been shut down and Bibles seized, and Tibetan children have been moved from Buddhist temples to schools.

  • Does your “Constitutional Religious Freedom” over-ride the (alleged) words of God? Matt 22:21

    If any interest group (religious or not) follows the regulations and laws of their country they should be protected by the state from arbitrary action.

    If, on the other hand, said interest group claims that it doesn’t have to obey the same rules as everyone else because….precious….special…., we’ve always got away with it in the past…..they deserve to be treated in line with the law that they are demeaning. Presumably, when religion is involved, those who try it on and get their comeuppance have the option of seeking retribution from their deity of choice. I just recommend that they don’t hold their breath unless they really want to get to heaven quickly – gods don’t seem to get fazed about the things that concern of the faithful! (Cancer/poverty/potable water/arthritis/income inequality/conflict etc. etc. – You’ll note – I’m talking decent religious people – not the others – gods ignore them as well but they often deserve it).

  • Indeed, some of our posters – Spuddie, Edddoer, Susan Humphreys, and others – are effectively giving the Chinese high fives.

  • The better solution for the Chinese et. al.:

    The Great Kibosh-

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten
    seconds: Priceless !!!

    As far as one knows or can
    tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    As far as one knows or can
    tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    There was no Easter i.e.Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on

    A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings
    (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups
    calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally,
    Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early
    philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely
    different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was
    immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for
    eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • It’s seriously ironic that you chose Matt. 22:21 to try to attack Constitutional Religious Freedom. (This is why I keep insisting that you atheists please get real on your Bible-Study skills.)

    (Jesus said), “Here, show me the coin used for the tax. When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” — Matt. 22:19-21

    So Jesus is just saying “Hey, pay your taxes” here. Kewl. But this is the same Jesus who made it clear that God, (not government!), gets to say what is a real marriage and what ain’t a real marriage, because it is God who invented it, defined it, and set its boundaries in the first place:

    ‘Haven’t you read,’ he (Jesus) replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? — Matt. 19:4-5. Exclusively male-female, gender-complementarian.

    So yeah, a la Matt.22:21, it’s ALWAYS the right thing for Christians to refuse to participate (even tacitly) in any gay marriage or reception events. No cakes with Two Plastic Gay Guys at the top.

  • Except that you can’t demonstrate that “God” has ever had anything to do with marriage, you can’t demonstrate that “God” has any opinion about anything and you can’t even demonstrate the existence of “God”.

    Alter those those minor difficulties and you might have the beginning of an argument.

    Standard Christian reasoning – start from an unsupported and unlikely/impossible assumption and build a rational argument that looks good in isolation but fails because of the inherent dependence on the flawed prime assumption(s).

    Never forget – just because I prod you with your preferred book doesn’t validate the unsupported stories it contains, or the nonsense some people choose to extrapolate from them.

    As to your “it’s ALWAYS the right thing for Christians to refuse to participate (even tacitly) in any gay marriage or reception events.” I’ll prod you in the direction of John 11:35.

    And, as a matter of curiosity, how can you tell if a plastic guy, on a cake or not, is gay?

    Would they not be gay if cake were not involved – how about roulade or trifle?
    Are two men standing next to each other always gay, irrespective of location?
    Perhaps it’s their clothing that gives them away – looking smart is obviously dubious.
    Have you investigated these plastic men for gay piercings or tattoos?
    Interrogated them about their favourite TV programmes?
    Is one of them wearing pink underwear – and, if so, why would that make him gay?

    Clearly these are questions that a sharp and “God”-supported intellect can settle once and for all – I await enlightenment.

  • Okay, so now we’ve seent the Matt. 22:21 text, and seen that it’s compatible with Constitutional Religious Freedom. So now you apparently switch from “What does the Bible say?”, to “What can you personally demonstrate to my satisfaction, regardless of what the Bible says?” Hence:

    “You can’t demonstrate that “God” has ever had anything to do with marriage, you can’t demonstrate that “God” has any opinion about anything and you can’t even demonstrate the existence of “God”.

    Just briefly, the last 5 words there are the key, the prerequisite for the rest of your quote. Can you rationally demonstrate that God exists? In fact I can, in fact anybody can (no PhD required!), and I’ve done it several times in this forum just because it’s so much fun. (However, I always quote the Bible anyway, like Romans 1:20, because it seriously helps people get the full picture of the how the real world really DOES prove that God is real and active.)

    Meanwhile, in ref to your question about a plastic gay gay, it’s NOT difficult to identify ’em as gay. Hints: look to see if it’s a wedding cake, and then watch for TWO plastic gay guys pretending to get married. Something like this:

  • Yet again the “I can prove that God exists” claim – always followed by ………………………………………………..zilch

    There is no such proof – that’s why you regularly claim to have it but lose your bottle when it comes to putting up – you daren’t risk exposing your “rational demonstration” to critical thought..

    Quoting the Bible to an atheist in order to support your argument simply displays your disconnect from rational thought.
    2 Timothy 3:16 next?

    No – they aren’t gay – they’re plastic. They may be intended to represent happy men who were born to be gay but that’s all they are – a representation. They aren’t gay – and what does it say about the mental state of someone who regards two bits of plastic as worth getting their knickers in a twist for. There are some very sad people about.