Islamic Human Rights Commission
01 May 2009
Alert: China – Villagers protest against destruction of ancient Muslim cemetery on Hainan Island
According to Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Chinese service, villagers of southeast China’s Hainan Island have been protesting against plans by local military personnel to build a parachute training base. To construct the base, officials will effectively have to destroy a 700 year old Muslim cemetery situated there. Since construction began in December 2008, at least 10 ancient tombs have been destroyed, after which the angered native population stepped up protests.
Military personnel from the Sanya Naval Airbase have occupied land in Hui Xin and Hui Hui, villages in the town of Feng Huang, since early 2008 whilst planning the construction of their new parachute training base. When construction finally commenced in December 2008, more than 2,000 villagers came out in protest, which followed with approximately 20-30 protesters guarding daily the cemetery since then.
The cemetery under dispute is one of five ancient Muslim cemeteries discovered in the area, which according to experts, originated from a foreign Muslim merchant population who settled there for trade. Sanya’s current Muslim population is around 8,000.
According to Hai Shi Hao, deputy director of the Hui Xin village community, locals refused some 6-7,000 yuan per tomb offered to them by the local government, who also offered to transfer the entire cemetery to a new location. However the local Muslim villagers, who have ancestrally owned the land since the Tang dynasty, did not wish to disrespect the sanctity of the ancient tombs by transferring them. Hui Xin says the Navy is not communicating directly with the villagers, rather through the local government.
Mr. Zhou, a local government official, when asked if the construction would carry on, said the decision rested wholly with the Navy, while their job is simply to calm the villagers. One local resident, Mr. Ma, said it is rumoured that the Navy plans to build a restaurant and hotel on the land, under guise of national security. Perturbed, he remarked that even the Japanese dared not disturb the cemetery while they occupied the area.
Locals started a blog collecting signatures from residents of all the neighbouring villages. The blog complains that the plan should be regarded as criminal according to central government policy. IHRC will be monitoring the situation as closely as possible as it develops, and likewise will be updating subscribers in due course.
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“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75
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