Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region officials on Friday denied a recent report claiming mosques in the region have been demolished and urged the United States to stop smearing China's policy in Xinjiang by fabricating stories.
In June, the US Department of State submitted the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report to Congress, which alleged that Xinjiang was repressing religious freedom by demolishing mosques across the region.
"The allegations carried in the report are totally groundless and rumors. Its real intention is to politicize religious issues, using religion to have a hand in Xinjiang's affairs and interfere in China's internal affairs," Ilijan Anayt, spokesman for the regional government, said during a news conference on Friday.
Ilijan said the so-called forced demolition of mosques in the region was total nonsense. The legal rights and interests of venues for religious activities that have registered in accordance with the law are protected by the government.
"Xinjiang has always attached great importance to the protection and repair of mosques, and the governments at all levels have not only helped and supported the improvement of mosques, but have also guaranteed the normal religious needs of religious believers," he added.
Ilijan said some mosques in Xinjiang were built in the 1990s or earlier, and the facilities in them had become shabby, with potential safety hazards. Therefore, the regional government had renovated dangerous mosques and adjusted their overall layout.
"We have improved the conditions of the mosques and have met the needs of the believers, and our work has been widely welcomed," he said.
In response to the report alleging that the regional government dismantled the Jiami Mosque in Yecheng county, Kashgar prefecture, and the 800-year-old Id Kah Mosque in Hotan prefecture in 2018, Ilijan said the allegations were not true.
"In fact, those two century-old mosques have not been demolished, but have been well protected by the local governments," he said.
Ilijan said the gatehouse and gate tower of the Jiami Mosque were deemed to be in dangerous condition in September 2018. In order to protect worshippers during their religious activities, the gatehouse and gate tower were repaired in February last year, and the renovated mosque resumed operation about a month later.
He said the time-honored Id Kah Mosque was also well preserved and was added to the national cultural relic protection list by the State Council in 2013.
Further, in response to a photo published by the US embassy in China showing the destroyed plaque of the 1,000-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, Ilijan said it was nonsense. He urged the embassy to stop spreading rumors and to correct the false statement.
"Because the plaque was exposed to the outside, and the script on it was blurred by weather over the years, the mosque started renovating, rewriting and repainting the plaque in 2017 after consulting with Islamic scholars and believers," he said, adding that the plaque had been repaired and was now hanging on the outer wall of the prayer hall.