The Chinese government appears to have systematically destroyed several cemeteries belonging to its Muslim minority, the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, for years.

Cooperating with the Uyghur community and analysing hundreds of satellite images, an investigation by American broadcasting giant CNN found that more than a 100 cemeteries have been destroyed just in the last two years.

By destroying the graveyards, which is considered a place for Uyghurs to meet and socialise, China’s Communist officials are trying to control the traditional Islamic practices of its Muslim population.

The Communist Party of China has not denied that they have destroyed several Uyghur cemeteries, but has instead insisted that the governments “fully respect and guarantees freedom for all ethnic groups… to choose cemeteries, as well as funeral and burial rights.”

Beijing has called the destruction of the cemeteries a “relocation” as they “did not abide by city planning codes and hindered future construction.”

In its investigation, French news agency AFP found that at least 45 Muslim cemeteries have been destroyed since 2014. AFP reporters visited several places in the destroyed cemeteries, where they found several scattered bones, which scientists later confirmed were human remains.

As part of its annual report for 2020, Human Rights Watch blasted China for its massive violations against several religious and ethnic minority groups within China. The director of the watchdog later added that China is carrying out “the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades…the Chinese government sees human rights as an existential threat. Its reaction could pose an even greater threat to the rights of people worldwide.”