Based on a handful of think tank reports and witness testimonies, Western governments have levied false allegations of genocide and slavery in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A closer look makes clear that the politicization of China’s anti-terrorism policies in Xinjiang is another front of the U.S.-led hybrid war on China. This resource compilation provides a starting point for critical inquiry into the historical context and international response to China’s policies in Xinjiang, providing a counter-perspective to misinformation that abounds in mainstream coverage of the autonomous region.
by Qiao Collective
The waning of the severity of extremist violence in Xinjiang by 2017 coincided with elevated antagonisms in the U.S.-China relationship. The Trump Administration’s inaugural National Security Strategy document identified China as a strategic threat to U.S. power, setting the stage for ongoing trade, tech, and ideological attacks on China. During this time, the U.S. raised the issue of Xinjiang in international bodies and federal legislation as part of its efforts to isolate China on the world stage.
Part 7 - U.S. Pursues Unilateral Action (Jan 2020-present)
2020 January 23 – Having confirmed human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 in tandem with the World Health Organization, China locks down Wuhan City and later the entire Hubei Province. While still pushing the Xinjiang issue, Western media became fixated on the pandemic response, seizing on human suffering to push a political and often racist agenda.
2020 February – Adrian Zenz publishes a report about the “Karakax List” in the Journal of Political Risk, supposedly a leaked document from 2017 provided by the Uyghur Human Rights Project proving collection of information about 3,000 Uyghurs and detention of 311 of them in Karakax (Moyu) County.
2020 March 1 – ASPI publishes “Uyghurs for sale,” a report alleging forced labor (and, notably, “slavery”) of Uyghur people around China. This seems to be scrutinizing the transfer employment program from an earlier Chinese white paper. It also builds on the material previously pushed by Adrian Zenz and CSIS.
2020 April 4 – China holds a national mourning ceremony for the victims and first responders of COVID-19. China’s ability to contain COVID comes in sharp contrast to the United States, which declared a state of emergency on March 13th and has since watched its situation worsen significantly. The United States accelerates escalation of tensions with China.
2020 June 17 – President Trump signs the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law, ending a process started after it was first passed as a bill by the Senate on September 11, 2019.
2020 June 18 – CGTN releases another special about terrorism in Xinjiang, Tianshan: Still Standing.
2020 June 29 – Adrian Zenz publishes a report alleging mass sterilization of Uyghur people through the Jamestown Foundation. This report has a blatant mathematical error.
2020 July – 44th UN Human Rights Council meeting, in which two joint statements took opposing sides as to China's conduct in Xinjiang
[criticizing] (2020-6-30) – United Kingdom on behalf of itself, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland
[supporting] (2020-7-1) – Belarus on behalf of itself, Bahrain, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, China, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Laos, Lesotho, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
The criticizing statement also attacked China’s sovereignty on Hong Kong, leading to a same-day joint statement on Hong Kong made by Cuba on behalf of 53 countries.
2020 July 6 – The Washington Post editorial board publishes the opinion piece, “What’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide,” marking the rapid escalation of allegations. The opinion references “new evidence” of forced sterilizations, but cites only Adrian Zenz’s June 2020 report for the Jamestown Foundation and an Associated Press “investigative report” which similarly relies on Zenz’s research.
2020 July 16 – An Urumqi resident is found to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 (Chinese source), leading to an identified COVID-19 cluster in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which had until then seen minimal cases since January 25. However, China’s efforts to combat COVID in Xinjiang go largely unreported.
As an aside, photos from February 19, 2020 show doctors, police, and border guards on horseback on snowy Kurte (Ku’erte) Plains (near the border with Mongolia), Fuyun County, Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Business Insider and People’s Daily Wechat Post). This demonstrates the extent of China’s COVID response, as officials made sure every person was provided for, in this case agro-pastoral citizens in border regions.
2020 July 24 – In response to the United States ordering the Chinese Consulate in Houston to close, China ordered the United States Consulate in Chengdu to close. Radio Free Asia among others speculated that this would stymie United States intelligence gathering on Xinjiang.
2020 July 30 – Amy K. Lehr of CSIS publishes a brief “Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda.” Particularly noticeable about this brief is its emphasis on the XPCC, with assertions cited backed up by sources from Radio Free Asia, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Citizen Power Initiatives for China (an otherwise opaque organization based in Brookline, Massachusetts founded by Yang Jianli, a self-described “Tiananmen survivor”). Footnote 33 cites Bao Yajun’s article on the XPCC but misrepresents the source, which does not mention labor camps as Lehr asserts.
2020 July 31 – The United States imposes Global Magnitsky sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps over accusations that it is connected to human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions include Chen Quanguo, the first Politburo member to be sanctioned by the United States.
2020 July 30 and August 7 – Coda Story—a self-described counterweight to Russian and Chinese “disinformation” funded by the U.S. and EU—runs two pieces seeking to undermine The Grayzone, Jerry Grey, and Carl Zha, some of the few Western sources to contradict the mainstream media narrative on Xinjiang.
2020 August 15-16 – Carl Zha and Daniel Dumbrill both release interviews held with Arslan Hidayat, an activist noted for spreading many lies about Xinjiang by faking captions and taking Douyin and other videos out of context on social media. Among other happenings, Hidayat admits to putting fake captions on videos he posts as well as to having no hard evidence for his claims, instead relying on mainstream media and “scholars” like Adrian Zenz. Hidayat also displays a seeming ignorance of the general contours of Xinjiang history and its people.
2020 August 17 – Radio Free Asia reports that Xinjiang hospital kills babies, relying on witnesses and Adrian Zenz’s mathematically suspect June 29 report.
2020 August 24 – CJ Werlemen at Byline Times reports “evidence that up to nine million Uyghurs are unaccounted for and allegations Chinese authorities plan to kill, incarcerate or convert the whole population.” His only source is Dr. Erkin Sidick, President of the Uyghur Projects Foundation and senior advisor to the World Uyghur Congress, who left China in the late 1980s and whose own sources are ever reliable anonymous Chinese government sources. The report also cites Zenz's mathematically suspect June 29, 2020 report and the NYT’s November 16, 2019 grammatically wanting “leaks” to back up Dr. Sidick’s otherwise baseless allegations. Near the end of the article, Dr. Sidick decides to liberally tamper with the statistics to prove his own foregone conclusions.
2020 August 25 – CGTN releases a new documentary collecting the experiences of students of the vocational centers, Lies and truth: Vocational education and training in Xinjiang.
2020 August 27 – Buzzfeed, backed by ASPI and Open Technology Fund (part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which runs Radio Free Asia, and a key supporter of 2019 Hong Kong riots) among others, pushes a two-part report relying satellite imagery, blanked-out images on Baidu Maps which are otherwise common occurrences, and witness testimony to further the Western narrative on Xinjiang. One such “camp” is in actuality an apartment complex with a five-star rating.
2020 September 2 – After about a month and a half, the COVID-19 cluster in Xinjiang is contained and Urumqi’s lockdown is lifted.
2020 September 9 – The U.S. State Department creates a new page just for propagandizing “CCP”’s atrocities in Xinjiang, in addition to releasing a short condemnatory video. Neither add anything new. The webpage relies on “recent, documented evidence” for “forced population control,” presumably Adrian Zenz’s mathematically suspect June 29 report; “NGO estimates and media reports” for “forced labor,” presumably ASPI’s and CSIS’ scare pieces; and unsubstantiated nonsense such as “CCP target[ing]... Uyghur language and Uyghur music.”
2020 September 14 – The United States restricts cotton and apparel imports from Xinjiang, citing “forced labor.” Both cotton and apparel industries are important to poverty alleviation and economic development in Xinjiang.
2020 September 15 – China agrees to and will arrange for European Union diplomats in China to visit Xinjiang.
2020 September 17 – China releases the white paper “Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang.” Some actors have twisted the white paper’s statistics (“Every year from 2014 to 2019 Xinjiang provided training sessions to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers, of which 451,400 were in southern Xinjiang”) to allege that China admitted to interning “8 million” into camps (presumably 1.29 x 6 = 7.74 for the headlining “8 million”). It bears repeating that this figure includes normal vocational education as well as those educated in institutions funded by the 2015 World Bank project. To date, the Chinese government has not released a figure on the number of people who have undergone vocational education as part of its de-radicalization program.
2020 September 22 – The U.S. Congress passes the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” authorizing sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and any other Xinjiang entity as determined by the discretion of the Department of Commerce. It expressly targets China’s poverty alleviation and pair-assistance programs designed to develop Xinjiang and bring residents out of absolute poverty. For more about the genocidal impact of U.S. sanctions as a form of economic warfare primarily targeting civilians, see Robin Davis, Onyesonwu Chatoyer, & Nancy Wright, “Sanctions Kill: The Devastating Human Cost of Sanctions,” Hood Communist (blog), March 26, 2020.
2020 September 23 – ASPI launches a “Xinjiang Data Project” (reportedly mapping “380 sites of suspected re-education camps, detention centres and prisons that have been built or expanded since 2017”) with an accompanying report on “Cultural erasure.” The former in particular has been heavily criticized online for designating common schools and offices as concentration camps and listing the renovated Keriya Aitika Mosque as demolished.
2020 October 6 - 75th Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, General Debate (official summary record of the meeting pending)
Total 39 countries on a joint statement delivered by Germany criticizing China on Xinjiang and Hong Kong on behalf of itself and Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Total 45 countries on a joint statement delivered by Cuba supporting China on Xinjiang (text not yet released, see release by the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations)
According to Jerome Taylor (AFP) and the WUC, the 45 countries are Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, China, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Kiribati, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Laos, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Total 55 countries on a joint statement delivered by Pakistan supporting China on Hong Kong (text not yet released, see release by the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations)
“Kuwait made a joint statement on behalf of three Gulf states, opposing politicization of human rights issues and interference in others’ internal affairs with the pretext of human rights.” (text not yet released, see release by the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic to the United Nations)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “nearly 70 countries backed China at the General Debate of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly” “on its stance and policies on Hong Kong and Xinjiang-related issues.”
2020 October 19-22 - Diplomatic envoys posted in China from 20 Arab states and the Arab League visit Xinjiang.
2020 October 24 - A resident of Shufu (Konaxahar) County, Kashgar Prefecture is found to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, leading to an identified cluster in Kashgar Prefecture. The prefecture was locked down, and by October 27th (3 days afterwards), the prefecture’s entire population of 4.74 million residents had been tested. Western news media coverage is muted, similar to its treatment of the Urumqi cluster. According to 2018 data from the Statistic Bureau of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 92.6% of the prefecture’s population is Uyghur, and another 1.4% is of a minority nationality other than Uyghur, for a total of 94% of Kashgar Prefecture’s population belonging to minority nationalities.
2020 November 3 - The Islamic Association of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region issues a “Report on Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang” via Tianshan Net.
2020 November 5 - Secretary Pompeo quietly revokes the designation of the ETIM/TIP as a terrorist organization on October 20th, 2020. The announcement was published on November 5th, 2020 and with little attention.