BEIJING, May 30 (AP): China's government is calling on protesters to turn themselves in after a crowd clashed with police over plans to demolish a mosque in the country's southwest as President Xi Jinping’s government tightens control over religion and society.
Protesters threw water bottles at officers with helmets and shields outside the blue-domed Najiaying Mosque in Yuxi, a city in Yunnan province, according to videos on social media. One punched a police officer’s helmet but little other violence was shown.
The Associated Press confirmed the location of the protest. Videos showing the protests were removed from Chinese social media.
Police called on "criminal suspects” to turn themselves in following Saturday’s incident and said those who do might receive lighter punishment. A police statement vowed "zero tolerance” toward "criminal activities that impede social management.”
People who answered the phone Tuesday at the police headquarters referred questions to the local government propaganda office. An employee who answered the phone there said the office had no information.
A court in 2020 ordered the Najiaying Mosque demolished after ruling it was built without official permission, according to a document on the court website.
The protesters were Hui, whose ancestors were members of China’s majority Han ethnic group and adopted Islam, according to the videos.
A man in a ripped T-shirt was shown wearing handcuffs but it was unclear whether he was in police custody. A caption said some 30 people were detained but the public dragged some away from police.
Elsewhere, Xi’s government has demolished mosques or removed domes, minarets and other distinctive Muslim features to transform them into nondescript, Chinese-style buildings.
In the northwest, some 1 million members of the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority have been confined to detention centers, according to foreign researchers. The government says they are for job training and to combat radicalism.
That has prompted complaints Xi’s government is trying to erase the cultural identity of Muslim minorities.
Two female spectators in Yuxi wore Muslim headscarves. Protesters and other spectators were men in T-shirts and trousers or shorts. - AP