Two villagers die in clash over mosque's demolition
At least two members of the Hui ethnic minority in Ningxia have died in clashes between more than 100 protesting Muslims and hundreds of armed police officers when a new mosque was demolished by the authorities on Friday, a resident said.
Jin Haitao , who lives in Taoshan village, in the town of Hexi in Tongxin county, said yesterday his grandmother, Yang Maiyan, 80, died at the scene and a cousin, Jin Hage, 19, was declared dead at a hospital after being attacked by men in uniform.
He said hundreds of officers, armed with guns, truncheons and knives surrounded the mosque on Friday afternoon.
'When the police attempted to knock down the newly built mosque, they were met with vigorous resistance from more than 100 villagers wielding clubs and shovels,' he said.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannon to force people from the mosque and disperse them before attacking them with truncheons and knives, Jin said.
A Hexi police officer confirmed the violence but said he did not know if anyone had died. Tensions were still high but the police had withdrawn.
He said those involved in building the mosque were linked to shadowy Islamic groups from the provinces of Yunnan , Gansu and Xinjiang and that the building had not been properly approved.
An internet user on Tianya, a popular bulletin board, said the mosque had been sponsored by a mysterious religious group in Yunnan.
Another Hexi policeman denied that anyone had been killed, Agence France-Presse reported.
'Two police officers and two villagers were injured and several villagers were taken away by the police, but I don't know how many,' he said.
Jin said many guests including 13 from Gansu had arrived in the village for the mosque's opening on Sunday.
He said villagers had funded the mosque. The county government had approved the project and provided nearly 20,000 yuan (HK$24,600) to buy bricks.
'Dozens of households in the village made contributions, donating tens of thousands of yuan and we started construction work after raising more than 800,000 yuan,' he said.
Both police officers said the mosque had been razed. Jin accused the authorities of destroying all evidence, including washing away bloodstains.
'All mobile-phone services have been suspended in the village and more than 100 villagers who took part in the protest have been detained and nobody knows where they are,' Jin said.
Calls to Hexi officials were unanswered yesterday.
Ethnic and religious tensions have sparked violence in recent years, with deadly riots in Lhasa, Tibet, in March 2008 and in Urumqi, Xinjiang, in July 2009. The authorities reacted by tightening control of ethnic affairs while trying to woo support through economic development.