China’s crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang province has spread to Ningxia, signaling a hardening in Beijing’s management of ethnic and religious groups.
Authorities began a security clampdown in Xinjiang last year, detaining at least 1m Muslim Uighurs in internment centers, a move that has drawn international condemnation. China’s leaders said the detentions were necessary and have recast them as “vocational education” facilities.
Efforts by Beijing to broaden its control over China’s ethnic minorities were highlighted last week when Ningxia signed a counter-terrorism co-operation agreement with Xinjiang.
Zhang Yunsheng, a senior Ningxia party official, has praised Xinjiang’s counter-terrorism efforts, calling on his province to “better integrate with Xinjiang” and to “strengthen the deep co-operation between the two places in antiterrorism, social stability, and ethnic religion”.
Mr Zhang’s entourage last month visited an internment center in Urumqi, the provincial capital, as well as two Xinjiang prisons, according to the Legal Daily, a newspaper managed by the Communist party’s political and legal commission.
The high-level exchange has paved the way for the export of Xinjiang’s techniques to Ningxia, home to the largest concentration of the Muslim Huis, one of China’s largest ethnic minority groups numbering more than 10m.
Even before the agreement, there had been tight religious restrictions in Ningxia. This summer, residents in Weizhou gathered in a rare protest over the planned demolition of the city’s recently completed Grand Mosque. Religious classes for children have been suspended region-wide since February while Islamic symbols and halal signs have been removed as part of a campaign to “Sinocize” Islam.