The Chinese government this week released a five-year plan that demands Muslim communities become more Chinese.
“[The policy] is not about changing the beliefs, habits, or ideology of Islam but to make them compatible with socialist society,” argues Gao Zhanfu of the China Islamic Institute.
The policy is in line with other attacks on religions in China – most notably the widespread detainment of Uighur Muslims in facilities described by Amnesty International as “wartime concentration camps.” Critics have compared the crackdown on the Uighurs to the human rights abuses suffered during the era of Chairman Mao.
Last September, the UN accused China of detaining and torturing up to one million Muslims (according to other sources, the figure is as high as three million). Beijing denied the existence of the camps before passing a law to legitimize them.
According to the Chinese government, the camps are “vocational education” facilities designed to wipe out extremism and help minor criminals get back into the workforce.
Former inmates have described the camps as mind transformation centers where detainees are tortured until they agree to abandon their faith.
“The total aim of those concentration camps is to eliminate the Uighur people,” says Gulbahar Jelilova, who was detained for 15 months.
This Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry invited UN officials to visit the camps, as long as they obey certain rules.
Beijing has long sought to curtail the influence of religion, but the persecution has intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. In 2017, Xi said all religions must be ‘Chinese-oriented’ as part of a broader effort to ‘Sinicize religion’ (make it more Chinese) by incorporating socialist values.
In 2018, Beijing released a five-year plan for Christianity which urged churches to promote socialism, teach Xi’s “Four Confidences,” and incorporate Chinese architectural styles.
This year, the government is expected to work on a sinicization plan for Buddhism.