Chinese authorities are showing a shocking disregard for the religious rights and cultural heritage of Tibetans and Uyghurs in East Turkistan (Xinjiang). Reports indicate that religious sites, such as the historic Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, are being opened to paying tourists while believers are restricted from practicing their faith, except on select holy days and for propaganda purposes.
The Id Kah Mosque, once a significant place of worship for Uyghur Muslims, has been largely closed for divine service since 2016 as part of the Chinese rulers' harsh actions against religion and culture in the region. This suppression of faith extends far beyond the mosque, as the Uyghur Human Rights Project reveals that up to 16,000 mosques (approximately 65% of all mosques) have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies since 2017.
Ironically, the Chinese authorities have the audacity to promote tourism in the region, boasting about the "well-preserved cultural traditions of all ethnic groups." This tourism strategy is part of Beijing's plan to exert control over non-Chinese regions like East Turkistan and Tibet while simultaneously reshaping their cultures to align with that of the Chinese mainland.
The Chinese government appears to view tourism as an avenue to impose a uniform Chinese identity on these regions, disregarding the right of the local populations to preserve and represent their own unique cultures and heritage. The essence of their culture and spirituality is utilized as a basis for profitable tourism, leaving the inhabitants with little say in how their traditions are presented.
In Tibet, a similar pattern emerges, exemplified by the situation at the Buddhist study center Larung Gar and the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Chinese authorities have implemented regulations favoring Chinese tourists over Tibetan Buddhist believers, further emphasizing their disregard for spiritual rights.
The new rules at the Jokhang Temple separated visiting hours for pilgrims and tourists, significantly extending the time for tourists, many of whom were Chinese, to access the temple. This prioritization of tourism over religious practices undermines the sanctity of these sacred sites and deeply affects the Tibetan community.
Behind the facade of a picturesque tourist destination, the reality remains stark: Tibetans are being systematically assimilated into Chinese culture, with their religion and traditions reduced to mere folkloric attractions for tourists.
Edited and collated by Team TRC