As part of what some observers believe is a campaign aimed at breaking the spirit of Uyghur Muslims, Chinese authorities have erected a public toilet on the site of a demolished mosque in Xinjiang.
According to a local official, the construction of the restroom on the former site of the Tokul mosque in Atush City, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is part of Beijing’s “Mosque Rectification” campaign.
The Mosque Rectification drive, part of a series of hard-line policies under President Xi Jinping, predates the mass incarceration of as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps in the XUAR that began in April 2017.
The committee chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, told RFA that Tokul mosque was torn down in 2018 and that a lavatory had been built in its place by “Han [Chinese] comrades.”
“It’s a public toilet … they haven’t opened it yet, but it’s built,” he said.
“People have toilets at home, so there weren’t any problems like that,” he added, when asked if there had been a need for the public toilet in the local community.
The committee chief said that the village of Suntagh, where the mosque previously stands, is located about three kilometres (1.85 miles) outside of central Atush, the area sees few to no tourists who would require access to a washroom.
He conceded that the toilet was likely built to cover up the ruins of the destroyed Tokul mosque, as well as for the needs of inspecting groups or cadres visiting the area.
The chief said it was unclear how many people the restroom was built to accommodate.
“It’s still closed, so I haven’t even been inside,” he said.
Another resident of Suntagh, who also declined to be named, said that one of the two mosques in the village RFA recently learned were torn down in or around the autumn of 2019—Azna mosque—had been replaced with “a convenience store” that sells alcohol and cigarettes, the use of which is frowned upon in Islam.
Earlier, a public security officer in Suntagh confirmed that Azna mosque and Bastaggam mosque had been destroyed, while the mosque authorities left standing—Teres mosque—was the smallest and in the poorest condition of all three.
In addition to mosques, the Chinese authorities have been systematically destroying Muslim cemeteries and other religious structures and sites across the XUAR since 2016.
An investigation by Agence France-Presse revealed that at least 45 cemeteries in the XUAR had been destroyed from 2014 until last October, with 30 razed since 2017. The sites were turned into parks or parking lots, or remained empty. (Source: RFA)