By Edward Wong
BEIJING – Residents of a village in northwestern China where hundreds of Muslims tried to defend a mosque against demolition by the authorities have said that many civilians were injured when police attacked and that at least two might have been killed, according to news agency reports on Tuesday.
The clash took place on Friday in Ningxia Province, when villagers near the town of Hexi surrounded a mosque to try to prevent officials from razing it. Officials had said the mosque was built illegally.
Witnesses said police armed with batons and water cannons then tried to beat back the protesters. The Muslims were ethnic Hui, the largest ethnic minority in China that practices Islam.
Many Hui live in northwestern China, though they have also spread to other parts of China to do business. Members of China’s other ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians, have engaged in recent years in violent confrontations with ethnic Han. Many members of those minorities assert that the Han, who rule China, discriminate against them.