Handling ungranted expansion of religious structures needs caution, wisdom

By Shan Renping Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/11 7:06:49

The local authorities' plan to demolish the Weizhou Grand Mosque in Tongxin county, Wuzhong city, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has become a controversy, receiving a great deal of attention in China.

The dispute started in 2015. The Weizhou Grand Mosque applied for renovations in 2015, and the local government approved it. However, after the renovation, the scale of the construction was bigger than what was originally declared. Local religious followers also claimed that some officials attended the mosque's ceremonies related to the construction. 

It was reported that a notice was issued by the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Wuzhong City in May, criticizing some local officials for their lack of supervision during the mosque's renovations. The city commission claimed that negligence led to the ungranted expansion size of the mosque, and as a result, the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Tongxin County announced it would enforce disciplinary actions against the relevant local officials.

The negligence of the area's local officials has led to serious consequences. Demolishing the mosque is sure to earn the ire of local religious followers. However, if the local government does not react to the illegal act, it will fuel the idea that religions are superior over China's laws. Thus, it might set up a dangerous precedence and other religious sites could follow suit.

In fact, once the proper management is absent at the first stages, any afterward corrections will likely be seen as a sensitive topic, and will come at a great cost to social governance.

The Weizhou Great Mosque, which has eight domes, is massive and has the typical appearance of mosques from the Middle East. Dealing with this incident is sensitive because it involves religion and the local government. Any improper handling of the situation could cause quite a stir in the public eye.

Unauthorized revisions and expansion after obtaining a permit is not uncommon. It happens during the construction process of some other religious structures in other parts of China, and is not limited to one religion. In some cases, some religious buildings have even expanded their structures before obtaining a permit for construction.

In the last few years, construction of some religious sites in China have gained negative attention, thanks to poor management, lack of supervision from local governments, and failure to understand the importance of properly addressing and solving these issues.

Local governments need to take special care of topics surrounding religion, since any missteps typically arouse discontent in citizens. Furthermore, Western media also enjoys taking advantage of these incidents, smearing China's religious policies and attempting to intervene in the country's internal affairs. This type of intervention leads to an added level of complexity when dealing with an already difficult situation.

When dealing with a topic of national interest, it is important to take stock from all sides of a dilemma. Thus, people and organizations are encouraged to prioritize topics of national interest while proposing their own appeals and needs. These individuals and organizations need to work together to minimize negative effects on society while also figuring out acceptable solutions that would benefit everyone involved.

Many problematic issues that take on national appeal stem from the local level, due to regulations sometimes not being enforced by local officials. However, once a topic reaches the national level, it creates a ripple effect that has consequences on a larger scale. It is thus strongly encouraged that local officials ask for guidelines regarding every single case related to unauthorized construction of religious sites to help them from making mistakes. The goal is to figure out a comprehensive and thoughtful solution to avoid creating any impasse.

Chinese people enjoy religious freedom protected by the Constitution of China, the country under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). No religion shall have the privilege over laws and regulations of the country. All religious activities should abide by the country's laws and all religions shall be treated equally.

To effectively solve the issue, local authorities need to stick to the law and take local people's feelings and interests into consideration. They need to admit their mistakes and inform the area's Muslims why it is the necessary to take corrective actions in regard to the illegality of the ungranted expansion.

Local authorities need to make religious people aware that China respects religious freedom, but it also needs to educate its citizens on the fact that improving the management of religious activities is an indispensable part of state governance. 

Effectively managing religious activities guarantees the daily operation of religious organizations while safeguarding the harmony of the society. It also serves the best interests of local religious people. Compliance with laws and consultation with local people will be the ultimate solution to the ungranted expansion of religious structures.

China is a multi-ethnic country, which makes dealing with religious issues very complicated in different parts of the country. The balance of serving the overall national interest as a whole while catering to the specific needs of different religions and groups of people cannot be achieved at 100 percent accuracy. 

However, when an issue does arise, it is important for Chinese citizens to uphold the authority of the government's laws and to achieve unity in society. They should be also be vigilant against the intervention of foreign forces. All of these priorities have driven China forward in the past, making it unstoppable in its progress. It is also these priorities that the Chinese people center their interests on.



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