Pope Francis recently visited Mongolia, and that had a major impact in China as well. The number of Catholic believers in the country is estimated at no less than ten million, and many of them wanted to come to Ulaanbaatar to visit the head of the church. However, such actions are not without risks, as visitors face strict social surveillance restrictions.
A regular criticism of China is that it does not respect religious freedom.
Not only can the Catholic community living in the country feel the pressures of the party state because of their religious beliefs, but this has primarily affected the Uyghur Muslim minority living in Xinjiang in the past. Numerous arrests were made for wearing religious clothing or symbols, while an estimated one million people were transferred to concentration camps, and thousands of mosques in the region were destroyed or vandalized. In Tibet, believers are similarly prohibited from practicing Buddhism, religious festivals are increasingly banned, and many people are punished for participating in religious activities. Local schools have been closed, and Beijing has been accused of trying to assimilate Tibetans into mainstream society through the school system.
However, as long as the ethnic approach also appears in the case of the Uyghur and Tibetan minorities, Hui Muslims, who constitute a minority of about 11 million people in China, will also suffer atrocities.
They were prohibited from using Arabic letters, and in many cases the community’s mosques were destroyed or fenced off “under the pretext of renewal.” Christian communities in China also face the same formalities.
Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Urumqi, the capital of western Xinjiang province, where he urged the “Sinicization” of local Muslims.
According to experts, the Chinese President prefers to subject the country’s religious sects to the party’s instructions, and stricter regulations will be applied to them. Part of this is that religious buildings that do not fit Chinese architecture are being demolished and replaced with traditional Chinese-style buildings. Likewise, I would like sermons to be subject to state censorship. Part of this strategy is to try to discredit churches that are not affiliated with China, and there is an ongoing controversy with the Vatican and the Dalai Lama.
In the cover photo, Chinese Muslims hold a religious ceremony in Beijing. Cover image credit: Kevin Fryer/Getty Images