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Thousands of mosques destroyed or damaged in Xinjiang

Australian institute makes claim using satellite imagery based on 900 religious sites

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Urumqi mosque (Reuters photo)

Urumqi mosque (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has been carrying out a systematic campaign against mosques, destroying or damaging thousands throughout the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, according to a report released by the Australian Strategy Policy Institute (ASPI) on Thursday (Sept. 24).

Despite Beijing’s repeated claims that Xinjiang has more than 24,000 mosques, the think tank estimates there are fewer than 15,500 left. “This is the lowest number since the Cultural Revolution, when fewer than 3,000 mosques remained,” the report said.

ASPI analysis found that since 2017, approximately 8,450 mosques have been destroyed across Xinjiang, and another estimated 7,550 have been damaged or had Islamic architecture and symbols removed. The report found an additional 30 percent of Islamic sacred sites, including shrines, cemeteries, and pilgrimage routes have been demolished in the region, with another 28 percent damaged or altered.

A majority of the sites reportedly remain empty, while others have been turned into roads or parking lots or used for agriculture. Some have been leveled and rebuilt on a smaller scale, according to the report.

The only areas where mosques remain primarily intact are in tourist areas like Urumqi and Kashgar.

To collect the data, ASPI found the precise coordinates of more than 900 sites dated before 2017, including 533 mosques and 382 shrines and other holy sites. These were then compared to recent satellite photos and cross-referenced with census data to make “statistically robust estimates,” The Guardian reported.

According to Reuters, China’s foreign ministry denied the claims made in the ASPI report, saying there are over 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang — “more mosques per capita than many Muslim countries.”