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Chinese police destroy villagers' new mosque

Residents of a Taoshan village in north-western China were left shocked after a violent clash with armed police who came with water cannon and tear gas then demolished a newly refurbished mosque before arresting scores of people last week.

Hundreds of police arrived in the village in the Hexi region of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on Thursday, the day before the demolition took place. Power and communication links were cut at 11pm that night, according to one villager, who wanted to remain anonymous. Police raided several homes.

Villagers had raised 800,000 yuan (£82,000) to refurbish the mosque and there were plans for a grand opening on 1 January. But more than 50 people, mostly members of the Muslim Hui minority, were injured and 100 detained after they tried to stop the demolition. The police used water cannon and tear gas and then beat people.

The altercation highlights religious tensions in the country, which has about 20 million Muslims, about half of them hailing from the Hui ethnic minority.

Although the government has allowed Muslims to rebuild their places of worship after they were destroyed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, it keeps a close watch on all forms of religious activity.

Separatist activity by the Uighurs in Xinjiang province has also meant that Muslim communities across China have been subject to special scrutiny.