Does this video show the Chinese Government destroying a mosque in China?

By February 15, 2024 Government, Religion

We came across several posts on X circulating a short video showing the demolition of what appears to be a tower, with the claim that it shows the Chinese government destroying a mosque in China. Several of these posts also claim that the destruction of mosques is part of the Chinese government’s crackdown against the Uyghurs living in China.

The Uyghur population in China

The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority population primarily living in the Xinjiang region in China, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Most of the Uyghur population is Muslim and they speak their own language which is largely similar to Turkish.

China has previously been accused of committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur population living in Xinjiang. Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have reported that almost a million Uyghurs had been unfairly detained in facilities such as “political education” camps operated by the Chinese government under the guise of a mass deradicalisation programme targeting extremists. According to former detainees, they are forcibly taught Mandarin and drilled in Communist Party propaganda in such camps.

Leaked official records in 2020 also appeared to show that Uyghurs could be sent to detention centers for trivial reasons such as wearing a veil or downloading an e-book in Uyghur. However, the Chinese government has denied all allegations of mistreatment.

The Chinese government has also been previously accused of demolishing mosques in China to curb the practice of Islam. An estimated 1,300 mosques have been reported to have been closed or converted since 2020 in the Ningxia region in China.

However, the Chinese government has claimed that the closure or demolition of these mosques is part of its efforts to consolidate mosques that are nearby, especially where villagers have relocated, to reduce the economic burden on Muslims. It has averred that it protects the religious freedom of all ethnic groups in China.

Location of mosque demolition

We ran reverse image searches of screenshots taken from the videos that were circulating on X and found media articles containing the same video reporting on a controlled demolition of mosques in Turkey.

The video was taken on 18 February 2023 in the Adana province in Turkey, where approximately 200 buildings were damaged by the earthquake that hit Turkey in the same month. Turkish media sites reported that about 150 minarets (towers typically built adjacent to a mosque) were badly damaged and had to be demolished as they could potentially collapse and were a safety hazard.

The full video showed several minarets in Turkey that were part of the controlled demolition. Further, the video also showed a worker who was injured in the demolition process where debris from the demolished minaret hit the worker.

Hence, the videos circulating on X do not show the Chinese government destroying a mosque in China. Instead, videos of a controlled demolition of minarets in Turkey were circulated with misleading captions.

Widening existing fault lines

Inflammatory remarks concerning race and religion can incite strong emotions and potentially widen existing fault lines which makes it all the more important to verify information that we come across to avoid spreading misinformation.

In the context of reports of existing discrimination against the Uyghur community in China, such comments risk escalating tensions and further polarising society.

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