Crowd fights Chinese police at mosque demolition

January 2, 2012 - 2:52 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A crowd of Muslims fought with police who demolished a mosque in China's northwest, a police employee and a human rights group said Monday.

The violence erupted Friday in Hexi, a town in the Ningxia region, after the mosque was declared an "illegal religious place" and about 1,000 officers arrived to demolish it, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

It said 50 people were injured and more than 100 detained after several hundred members of China's Muslim Hui minority tried to stop the demolition. It cited a villager as saying two people died, but said it could not confirm that.

An employee who answered the phone at the town police station confirmed that officers had fought with protesters and said about 80 people were detained but denied there were any deaths.

Police demolished the mosque after the clash, said the employee, who refused to give her name. She said she did not know how many people were involved or why police demolished the mosque.

The Communist government closely monitors religious activity and worries that mosques and other houses of worship might become centers for anti-government agitation.

The Hui are one of several Muslim minority groups in China. They include descendants of Muslim immigrants from Central Asia, members of China's majority Han ethnicity who converted to Islam and several other groups.