31 mosques and two shrines in Xinjiang, China have been partly or completely destroyed since 2016, according to a report by The Guardian and Bellingcat yesterday, 7 May
The investigation, which shows new evidence of mosque razing in Xinjiang, was conducted through satellite imagery.
The Guardian and Bellingcat revealed that 100 locations of mosques and shrines were included in the analysis – following information and identification by former residents, researchers, and mapping tools.
Out of the 33 affected religious sites, 15 of them were said to be "completely or almost completely razed"
The report added that others had their guesthouses, domes, and minarets removed from the sites.
The investigation found that the demolition of mosques and shrines were conducted between 2016 and 2018.
One of the sites, the Imam Asim shrine, was among the heavily destroyed
According to The Guardian, thousands of Uighur Muslims would flock to the shrine to seek "healing, fertility, and absolution" every year. Visiting the shrine three times was equivalent to completing the Hajj for many in Xinjiang.
However, the mosque and other buildings at the Imam Asim shrine have since been demolished, and residents no longer visit the site.
The new evidence corroborates existing reports that the Chinese government has detained over a million Uighur Muslims in internment camps
However, the government has consistently claimed that the centres are for vocational training to curb Islamic extremism, according to Al Jazeera.
A Human Rights Watch report on 2 May also revealed that the DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types of residents between ages of 12 and 16 are kept in a government database.
Moreover, Associated Press reported in December 2018 that Uighur Muslims in these camps are forced to give up their native language and religion, while being put through political indoctrination.
Nonetheless, Muslims outside the Xinjiang region remain excluded from state repression
For instance, while China outlaws religious education for children, Hui Muslim children are allowed to attend mosques and study with an imam. They are also allowed to fast during Ramadan, unlike the situation in Xinjiang.
A 2004 report by the US State Department also revealed that Muslims in different parts of China are treated differently by the Chinese government in terms of religious freedom.