Will China become a Muslim country?

China wants to bring Muslims into line

China will not abandon what it claims to be a "very successful de-radicalization program" in Xinjiang. However, "over time, fewer people would go through the state education and training mechanism," said the governor of the region, Shorat Zakir, on Sunday in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. This is reported by the Reuters news agency, whose correspondent had previously attended a few so-called vocational training centers as part of a small foreign press team. According to Western estimates, up to a million Uyghurs are interned in these facilities for re-education.

When visiting three such centers, inmates said in the presence of the Chinese companions that they were there voluntarily to rid themselves of extremist ideas. The visits to the facilities and the discussions took place under permanent supervision by representatives of the Chinese authorities.

Hui women study the Arabic Koran

Happy to visit Xinjiang, but ...

"The fact that China is forced to undertake such a tour means that international pressure is having an effect," says Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. Just before the press event, China had organized a similar trip for diplomats from twelve non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Kazakhstan.

Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing announced on Monday that UN representatives and all parties were welcome to visit Xinjiang - "provided that they observe the relevant travel regulations, do not interfere in internal affairs and maintain an objective and neutral attitude." . The German human rights commissioner Bärbel Kofler could not penetrate until recently with her request to visit Xinjiang.

The new large mosque in the "Arab style" in the autonomous region of Ningxia Hui: Its planned demolition was initially stopped after protests

Five-Year Islam Policy Plan

While the Chinese leadership is trying to signal its readiness for transparency in Xinjiang, it is simultaneously promoting the so-called "Sinization of Islam" in China. According to the English-language party organ "Global Times", a five-year plan was drawn up for this goal, which was discussed at a working meeting in Beijing with representatives of Islam from eight provinces and regions at the beginning of January.

A member of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Department said that 2019 was a crucial year for the implementation of the relevant guidelines and that China's Muslim community must "improve its political stance and trust the party's leadership."

Only a few days before this conference on Islamic policy the Chinese state's tougher course towards "unregulated" Islam had become apparent again: three "illegal" mosques in the southwestern province of Yunnan were closed in the course of police raids. The police forcefully dragged members of the Muslim Hui ethnic group, who had been "Sinized" for centuries, away from the entrance of one of the mosques affected. Several applications to register mosques in Weishan County had reportedly been denied over the past decade.

Chinese style mosque in Xian

Against "foreign Arab" influences

The Muslim minority in Yunnan, a province bordering Laos and Myanmar, has so far remained relatively unaffected by state repression. In other Hui Chinese settlement areas, in Ningxia and Gansu, there has been a recent series of anti-Muslim harassment, including the closure of mosques and Arabic schools, according to the Hong Kong South China Morning Post.

The US expert on Chinese minority policy, David Stroup, from the University of Oklahoma sees in such measures as in the recent clashes a clear line of Chinese policy: This is not only directed against unregistered religious sites, but against all too " foreign "buildings or components. These are to be banned from the public cityscape, especially mosques in "Arab" architectural style. Signs in Arabic script are also likely to become increasingly rare.

Uyghurs in Kashgar: They too should dream Xi Jinping's Chinese dream - with tutoring if necessary

Xinjang model for all Muslim areas in China?

Historian Haiyun Ma of Frostburg State University in Maryland also sees the removal of foreign influence as the main motivation behind the five-year plan to "Sinize Islam." "Arab influences are seen as cancer and should be eradicated from the lives of Muslims in China," Ma told DW. "This means that the cultural ties between Chinese Muslims and Islamic countries are reduced to a minimum or even completely interrupted. China is trying to isolate its Muslim population under the guise of globalization."

The "Global Times" reported in November that regions other than Xinjiang with significant Muslim populations would also learn from the experiences there. China expert Stroup believes it is entirely possible that the "Xinjiang model" will also catch on in other parts of the country.