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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Hui Muslims in China

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China Facts
Area:    9,596,560 sq. km.
Capital:    Beijing
Total Population:    1,237,000,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

There have not been significant protests or rebellion by the Hui in recent decades. Several indicators suggest why: there are 1) low levels of group concentration, organization and cohesion; 2) government efforts to accommodate Hui cultural interests; and 3) no significant government repression. Further, the Chinese government’s efforts in developing the western provinces, and the need for Arabic language skills due to China’s increasing interaction with the Middle East, may contribute to improvements in the Hui economic status. The major pressure point is cultural discrimination and economic disparity, which may provoke sporadic clashes between the Hui and other ethnic groups, or protests to the Chinese government. Chances of rebellion are low.


Analytic Summary

The Hui are dispersed in virtually all parts of China, with major concentrations in Ningxia (the location of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region), Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shandong, Yunnan, and Xinjiang provinces (GROUPCON = 1). The Hui trace back to the mid-seventh century, when Arab and Persian merchants came to China and settled in Guangshou, Quanzhou, Hangahou, and Yangshou. These merchants, virtually all men, lived in their own communities and did not intermarry with the Hans until the Mongol occupation of China (the Yuan dynasty after 1260). Though the Hui are Muslims, over centuries they have been assimilated. Today’s Hui are physically identical to Han (RACE = 0) and have become linguistically assimilated as well (LANG = 0). However, they have a distinct identity, differing from the Han, mainly in religion, clothing, and diet (CUSTOM = 1, BELIEF = 2).

The Hui experience little demographic stress but are relatively poor compared to the Han community because of historical marginality. Like other ethnic minorities, they do not benefit from China’s economic development as much as the Han majority. Ningxia Hui Autonomous region, where the Hui are most highly concentrated, is one of the poorer regions of China. Government remedial policies include guaranteed representation in government, universities, and exception from family-planning policies. Furthermore, the state pursues projects to develop the Ningxia Hui region (ECDIS01-06 = 1). Hui claim to suffer from segregation and racial discrimination at the hands of the Han, and feel underprivileged unequally benefited by China’s economic growth (ECGR04-06 = 1).

Groups such as the Chinese Islamic Association (CIA), represent the Hui and other Muslim ethnic groups of China, but work within guidelines determined by the state (GOJPA04-06 = 1). In the past there was intragroup conflict between different Sufi sects within the Hui community, but not at present.

Historically, there have been periodic conflicts between Hui groups and the Chinese state, as well as between Hui and other ethnic groups. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) the Hui were under systematic and sometimes violent attacks by the Han and experienced cultural, social, and religious discrimination. Matters began to improve after 1979 when the Chinese government adopted a policy of religious tolerance. The latest episode of ethnic conflict, was in October 2004, when violence erupted between Hui and Han in several villages. The conflict, involving about 5,000, people, resulted in 148 deaths and was ultimately quelled with the imposition of martial law (CCGOUPR1SEV04 = 5). Though the Chinese government represses all religious activity to a certain degree, in Xinjiang province, repression of Islam is especially acute (CULPO1 = 2). This is due to Beijing's view that Islam is a factor in the separatist aspirations of the Uighur, an ethnic minority, who are the majority in that region. Due to the fact that some Hui also inhabit the area, and share a common religion with the Uighur, their religious activity is also repressed. However, Hui are not more repressed than other religious groups elsewhere in China. With the exception of the October 2004 incident, the Hui have not been involved in episodes of violence in recent years, either against other minority groups or the state (PROT04-06 = 0, REB01-06 = 0).

The Hui are not seeking autonomy. Their major concerns are restrictions on religious practices, economic backwardness, and environmental decline in the NHAR. These conditions have improved in recent years. In the past, owning to economic restrictions, only a few Chinese Muslims could afford to pilgrimage to Mecca. Today, more than 5,000 Chinese pilgrims visit Mecca every year. The first Islamic university in China was opened, and in Xian there is an Islamic educational system in which children start their Islamic schooling at the age of four. Their Arabic skills help them in future contact with Islamic countries both in cultural and in economic relations.



Chong, Dennis. 12/13/2004. “Ethnic Tensions Simmer”. The Standard (Internet Version – WWW). accessed through OSC, 3/6/2008

Congressional – Executive Commission on China. 5/17/2004 “Practicing Islam in Today’s China: Differing Realities for the Uighurs and the Hui.” US Government Printing Office.

The Europa Yearbook, Far East and Australasia 1993.

Far Eastern Economic Review, 1990-93.

Keesings Record of World Events, 1990-93.

Lexis-Nexis Library News, 1990-2006.

Macartney, James. 10/5/2006. “Bombings like in London will never come from my Mosque.” Times Newspapers Ltd

Phase I, Minorities at Risk, overview compiled by Monty G. Marshall, 07/89.

Ruwitch, John.9/22/2004. “Feature – Racism dividing China’s wild west pervades.” Reuters Limited

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: China. 2001-2006.

Year of Experts (R) News Release Wire. 2/14/2006. "China Bans Officials, State Employees, and Children from Mosques"


© 2004 - 2023 • Minorities At Risk Project

Information current as of December 31, 2006