Chinese President Xi Jinping called on authorities to strengthen efforts to control what he called illegal religious activity. This call sparked concern for the Tibetan community in Gansu. Photo/REUTERS
GANSU – Chinese President Xi Jinping made strong statements regarding religious activities when he visited Urumqi, Xinjiang, at the end of last August. He called on authorities to strengthen efforts to control what he called “illegal religious activity.”
Xi Jinping’s statement sparked criticism and condemnation from a number of parties. Official photos of the visit to Urumqi show Xi standing with Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Chen Wenqing.
The position makes Chen, also a member of the Politburo and former Minister of State Security, the de facto leader of public security in China.
There is a fact that has received less attention at the national and international level, namely that Chen arrived in Urumqi from Hezuo City in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, part of Gansu province. Before going to Xinjiang, Chen had actually checked out Gansu, and his final stop was Hezuo City.
Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is home to more than 400,000 Tibetans, representing 57 percent of the population—a testament to the fact that Tibet was historically a larger country than what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region and is now Xizang.
Chen told authorities in Gannan Prefecture that Beijing expects them to “create a safe and stable social environment to promote Chinese-style modernization,” uphold “scientific culture,” and fight “separatism” and “superstition.”
Before Xi Jinping’s speech in Urumqi, Chen called Xinjiang a model for the fight against “separatism” and the use of religion to criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As Xi Jinping later did in Xinjiang, Chen praised the “Fengqiao Movement.”
Quoting information on the Bitter Winter page, Monday (4/9/2023), the Fengqiao Movement was launched in Zhejiang province by Mao Zedong in 1963 as the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. The movement consisted of “four purges,” in which four groups of people—“landlords,” “rich peasants,” “counter-revolutionaries,” and “criminals” were arrested and publicly shamed.
In some cases, they were even tortured and killed. The counter-revolutionaries and “evildoers” in the Fengqiao Movement include those who still adhere to independent religions.
The essence of Chen’s statement is that the same persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang could also be applied to Tibetan Buddhists in Gansu.
Chen also visited the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu, whose population includes more than 50 percent minorities, including Tibetans and Hui Muslims. Chen warned them not to oppose “Sinification of Islam,” referring to the movement to remove authentic elements of Islam or Arab culture, usually in the form of mosque renovations.