2muslim.com (中穆网, also known as Zhongmu), a popular online community for members of the Hui ethnic minority to discuss their Muslim faith and practice, has reportedly been shut down after an open letter to President Xi Jinping criticizing his administration’s “brutal suppression” of activists was shared in the site’s forums. Reuters’ Christian Shepherd reports on the site, its current inaccessibility, and the letter believed to have caused the block:
A critical open letter addressed to Xi had been uploaded in a discussion forum on the site hours before it became inaccessible.
[…] Young, internet-savvy Hui consider the website to be an important forum for discussing matters relating to their religious practice.
[…] The Cyberspace Administration of China, the government’s internet regulator, did not reply to requests for comment on Wednesday. Messages and calls to the website’s chief executive went unanswered.
A copy of the critical letter posted on the site, and seen by Reuters, called for the release of a student named Kwong Pyong who the letter said has been unreachable since October, shortly after he shared photos online of a satirical T-shirt with a message likening President Xi to Hitler [the student said he planned to wear in public].
Shortly after the letter was posted, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Xi Wuyi, shared a screenshot of it along with other China Muslim Net content on her Weibo account, saying that the website promoted religious extremism. [Source]
Attempts to access the site currently display a maintenance notification:
AFP (via Al Jazeera) reports further on the content of the open letter, and quotes the user who posted it to the forum:
“You are not responsible for all of the crimes of the totalitarian system, but as the totalitarian system’s head and its commander-in-chief of repression, you must take responsibility for the blood and tears which now flow,” the letter said to the president, who came to power in 2012.
“In the next spring of China’s new Jasmine Revolution, who will drive your tanks to crush us, the new generation of students after 1989?”
Yi Sulaiman Gu, a Muslim student studying in the United States at the University of Georgia, said the Zhongmu Wang website – or 2muslim.com – shut the day after he posted the letter to a forum that had previously hosted sensitive discussions on issues such as China’s persecution of Muslim dissidents.
“We believed it would be safe for Zhongmu to post it there,” Gu said. […] [Source]
Hui Muslims have long been known to enjoy a higher degree of religious freedom in China than Muslim members of the Uyghur ethnic minority, who have faced increasing restrictions on religious observance amid an anti-terrror campaign focused mainly on the Xinjiang region. A report by Deutsche Welle’s Kiyo Dörrer explains why Muslim Hui enjoy less state scrutiny than their Uyghur co-believers. Dörrer also describes a recent spike in religiosity among the Hui community, which may be partly responsible for recent reports suggesting that Hui Islam has also been facing increased regulation.
Historically, the Hui people are descendants of Persian, Arab and Mongol merchants on the Silk Road, who came to China over 1,200 years ago. Since then, intermarriages with the Han Chinese have meant that the Hui became ethnically mixed and spread across the country.
Over the centuries, the Han and Hui have lived relatively peacefully next to and with each other. The Hui took the path of assimilation, speak Mandarin and adapted their religious traditions to the local customs.
[…] While some Hui now live a life culturally and religiously indistinguishable from Han Chinese in first-tier cities such as Shanghai or Beijing, many cities in China have a significant Hui Muslim minority population with close-knit communities, especially in the northern provinces of Ningxia, Gangsu or Quinghai. Traditionally traders, many Hui people are also economically successful today, and according to estimates, their religious participation is growing.
[…] Another reason for the Hui’s relative freedom are the characteristics that distinguish them from the Uighurs. The second-largest Muslim minority is ethnically distinct, and does not speak Mandarin as a first language. Most importantly, they have a homeland that they wish to claim. [Source]
The nationwide “war on terror” was launched in May of 2014 in response to rising incidents of violence in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China in recent years. Beijing has denied increasing religious restrictions in Xinjiang amid the campaign, going so far as to praise regional authorities for allowing religious freedom amid a successful anti-terror drive in a white paper this year. In October, reports surfaced of a passport recall affecting most of Xinjiang, which would apply also to Han residents. The South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan this week suggested that newly installed regional Party chief Chen Quanguo was inspired to rollout the passport policy, as well as one increasing the presence of security forces and surveillance, from his previous experience heading the Party in Tibet. Last week, The New York Times’ Edward Wong reported on increased internet regulations in Xinjiang which would punish people who spread “false information” online.