About 15,000 mosques have been destroyed or damaged in recent years in the Muslim-majority region, the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI) – a research firm set up by the Australian government – said in a detailed report.
The researchers say it is based on satellite images and important “extrapolations” after analyzing 533 mosques – out of the 24,000 officially located in Xinjiang, according to Chinese authorities.
They specify that they performed calculations according to statistical models.
Most of the damage has taken place in the last three years, and 8,500 moochs have been completely destroyed, the report said.
Other mosques have had their domes and minarets torn down, according to researchers, who estimate up to 15,000 mosques are still “standing” in Xinjiang.
In “China’s little Mecca,” the town of Linxia, Gansu, every domed mosque has had its dome(s) removed.
All of these satellite images are from Linxia.
This is part of a government program that has hit cities across China. pic.twitter.com/Dk9Dhxx6LJ
— Rian Thum (@RianThum) September 19, 2020
The study was funded by the US State Department, ASPI said.
Washington is facing Beijing in a number of cases and has been at the forefront in recent months of denouncing Chinese policy in Xinjiang.
This vast semi-desert territory – long bloodied by attacks attributed to members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group – is the subject of a firm security takeover in the name of the fight against terrorism.
More than a million people – mostly Muslims – have been interned in “camps,” human rights groups say.
However, China claims that these are “training centers” designed to help the population find a job and move away from religious extremism.
Chinese authorities regularly say they will make religions “more Chinese.”
This campaign, which he is carrying out in the name of greater cult control, also aims to fight Islamist movements that catalyze separatist sentiment in Xinjiang.
“This report is just a rumor and a slander,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news conference.
He denounced the “lack of credibility” of the research cabinet and “its funding abroad”.
“The total number of mosques per capita in Xinjiang is higher than the number in Muslim countries,” he said.
ASPI released another report on Thursday, accusing China of strengthening its network of detention centers in the region.