Muslims in China are all identified through their government-assigned ethnicity and not through any means of personally stated religious belief. There are several consequences of this policy. For example, there is no way to identify in the national census the growing number of converts to Islam.
[Also read: Challenges Muslims Face In China]
Officially, there are 10 Muslim ethnicities living in China. They are listed below. The largest populations among them are the Huis and the Uyghurs.
1. Huis: Chinese-speaking Muslims dispersed throughout the country. They are about 20 million in population.
2. Uyghurs: A Turkic-speaking group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. They live mostly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and are close to 11 million in number. [Also read: Understanding The Uyghur Conflict]
3. Kazakhs: A Turkic group, they are about 1.4 million and live mostly in Kazakh autonomous counties and regions.
4. Uzbeks: Though they mostly live in Uzbekistan, Uzbeks are also a minority group in several other countries including China. They number about 21,000 in China.
5. Tajiks: A Persian-speaking Muslim group living in Western China around the snow-capped Pamirs, a mountain range shared with Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They are about 51,000 in number.
6. Tatars: They are only about 5000 in number and have their own language.
7. Salars: A Turkic ethnic group with their own language, Salars were about 130,000, according to the 2010 government census.
8. Dongxiang: Closely related to Mongols, they are over 600,000 in number. They are mainly farmers and also craftsmen of traditional carpets.
9. Kirgiz: Another Turkic group that lives in Xinjiang and are about 160,000 in number.
10. Bonan: A small group of about 17,000, comprising a mixture of Mongols, Hui, Han Chinese and Tibetans.
Khalkas: Ethnically they are Mongols (and therefore not counted among Chinese Muslim ethnicities). However, they are Muslims and a small minority living in Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Jehol.