Criticised for the repression of Muslims at home, China this week celebrated the completion of the largest mosque on the African continent, in Algeria.
Costing some $2bn to build, the Great Mosque of Algiers (Djamaa El Djazair), built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), is now set to open in the Algerian capital.
Visible from all over the city thanks to its 265-metre-high minaret, the mosque complex covers an area of 400,000 square meters, making it also the third largest mosque in the world, reports China’s state broadcaster, CGTN.
Its 20,000-sq-m prayer hall can accommodate 37,000 worshippers at once, while the total capacity of the mosque complex is 120,000.
The complex includes a park, library, public square, cultural centre, staff housing, a religious school, and even a fire station.
It is the biggest religious building ever built overseas by a Chinese company, state news agency Xinhua said. Construction took CSCEC nearly seven years after it won the bid for the project in 2011. Work started in August 2012.
Even as news of the completion was spreading yesterday, however, it emerged that the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had raised the plight of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region during a visit to Beijing last week.
"The Secretary-General discussed all relevant issues with the Chinese authorities … that includes the situation in Xinjiang," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters yesterday.
In the meeting Guterres stood by his High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who has has repeatedly pressed China to let the UN investigate reports of disappearances and mass detentions of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and elsewhere, the spokesman said.
Guterres met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum, but raised the situation in Xinjiang during a separate meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, reports The Epoch Times.Â
Official Chinese media have said hundreds of thousands of people in Xinjiang have been relocated in a "bid to improve social stability and alleviate poverty".
But Human Rights Watch has presented evidence that China’s crackdown on 13 million Muslims in the region has involved mass detention, forced indoctrination, collective punishment, as well as shutting down and demolishing mosques.Â
Image: The Great Mosque of Algiers under construction in November 2016 (Sandervalya/CC BY-SA 4.0)Â