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 6 - Entrenching the Narratives (Aug 2018-Jan 2020)
2018 August 10 – Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is here that Gay McDougall alleged concentration camps, forcing the controversy over the de-radicalization program in general, and the vocational centers in particular, into wide public discourse for the first time. (press release, 2018-8-13)
Reuters on the same day erroneously reported it as “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” Most news outlets failed to clarify that the UN CERD—let alone a sole committee member thereof—cannot speak for the UN; Gay McDougall said she had credible reports but failed to cite them.
[ Grayzone rebuttal by Ben Norton & Ajit Singh ]
The Press release actually reads: “Committee Experts, in the dialogue that followed, congratulated China for creating extraordinary prosperity and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in the eight multi-ethnic provinces and regions, but remain concerned over the growing inequality, particularly for ethnic minorities who continued to disproportionately experience poverty… A great source of concern was racial discrimination in the context of laws fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, particularly against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other ethnic minorities.” (As it turns out, Gay McDougall was both the only American at the meeting and the only person at the meeting to bring up "internment camps")
2018 August 20 – While being interviewed by Max Blumenthal from the Grayzone, Omer Kanat admits that the “one million” figure was from “Western media estimates.”
2018 September 6 – Adrian Zenz publishes “Thoroughly Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude: China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang” in the Central Asian Survey, a peer-reviewed article version of Zenz’s May 15, 2018 report. In it, Zenz clarifies the sources for his estimate of “approx. 1,060,000”: Naoko Mizutani's Newsweek Japan article and Radio Free Asia.
2018 October 9 – The 13th Standing Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region People’s Congress amends the “Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations” to expressly outline vocational education as a central strategy for de-radicalization work (Global Times report, SCMP report) (Relevant changes: Article 14 amended; Articles 17, 21, 33 added).
It is important to note that vocational education is not unique to Xinjiang. For instance, the Ministry of Education reported in 2015 that 7.25 million adult students were undergoing non-academic degree higher education, while the Ministry reported in 2018 that 11.3 million students were registered in vocational colleges. The white paper “Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang” provides further that from 2014 to 2019 “Xinjiang provided training sessions [vocational education] to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers [annually], of which 451,400 were in southern Xinjiang.” This 1.29 million figure here is for all vocational education, not just persons who undergo vocational education as a part of the de-radicalization program.
2018 November 1 – The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) publishes “Mapping Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps,” a report analyzing satellite imagery. Mainly, ASPI analyzes “28 facilities,” but alleges 181 (Agence France-Presse) or “as many as 1,200” (Adrian Zenz) such facilities, although an examination of their cited sources reveals no evidentiary basis for such allegations. (Note: ASPI is primarily funded by the Australian government and maintains strong funding relationships with weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin)
2018 November 15 – China releases the white paper “Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang.”
2018 December 19 – Relying on ASPI personnel and witnesses, AP condemns Hetian Taida Apparel for using “forced labor” due to its public association with a vocational training program, which AP insinuated were “concentration camps.” The Hetian Taida Apparel ordeal is the birth of the “forced labor” allegations in the current controversy.
2018 December 28-30 – Diplomats from 12 countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Kuwait) visit Xinjiang. Pakistani diplomat Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reported that the delegation was given full and open access to three vocational centers and that she “did not find any instance of forced labor or cultural and religious repression” during her tours of the region.
2019 January 6 – Reuters visit Xinjiang.
2019 January 9-16 – A media group of 12 representatives from 6 countries (Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) visit Xinjiang.
2019 January 22 – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation announces its one-week-long visit to China. This is presumably the visit on which the later OIC resolution is based.
2019 January 25-31 – A media delegation from Egypt visits Xinjiang.
2019 February 16-19 – Senior diplomats from the permanent missions of eight countries to the United Nations Office at Geneva visit Xinjiang.
2019 February 22-27 – A group of 11 journalists from Indonesia and Malaysia, as part of the ASEAN Elites China Tour 2019, visit Xinjiang.
2019 February 25-27 – Around 200 representatives of 50 political parties from nearly 30 countries visit Urumqi Xinjiang for a meeting aimed at showcasing China’s ethnic policy in Xinjiang.
2019 February 28-March 2 – Diplomats from Myanmar, Algeria, Morocco, Vietnam, Hungary, Greece, Singapore and the mission of the League of Arab States visit Xinjiang.
2019 March 1-2 – 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Resolutions on Muslim Communities and Muslim Minorities in the Non-OIC Member States (OIC/CFM-46/2019/MM/RES/FINAL), ¶20 of Resolution No.1/46-MM [pg.5] (“... commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens...”).
2019 March 18 – China releases the white paper “The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang.” A transfer employment program for 100,000 people was mentioned and would presumably be the object of consternation in the ASPI report of March 2020 alleging slavery.
2019 March 25 – The European Union rejects China’s offer of Xinjiang tour, but says it is open to one later. The EU would sit on its rain check for 539 days before once again demanding “independent” investigations into Xinjiang on September 14, 2020, despite the nearly 1,000 personnel from diplomatic, media, and academic circles who were invited to visit Xinjiang in 2019.
2019 March 27-29 – Milan Bacevic, Serbian Ambassador to China, and Selim Belortaja, Albanian Ambassador to China, visit Xinjiang.
2019 May 7 – NPR releases its report on its visit to a vocational center.
2019 May 10 – Val Thompson, founder and publisher of International Focus Magazine - Houston, writes on his experiences visiting Xinjiang. He states that in his group of media visitors were journalists from “Afghanistan, Egypt, Belgium, Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Japan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, UAE, USA, Switzerland, and a Geneva Delegation.”
2019 June 15 – Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov visits Xinjiang and reaches a “broad consensus” with China on the issue of counter-terrorism.
2019 June 18 – BBC’s visit to a vocational center.
2019 June 18-21 – Diplomats from 14 countries (including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Laos, Malaysia, Nigeria, Serbia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Togo) and a representative from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation based in Geneva visit Xinjiang.
2019 July 1 – Hong Kong protestors storm and vandalize the Legislative Council. It would appear that Western media would spend most of the remaining summer fixated on Hong Kong.
2019 July 8, 12 – 41st Session of the Human Rights Council. Two joint letters took opposing views of China’s conduct in Xinjiang.
2019 July 12 – Adrian Zenz pushes the “forced labor” angle with his paper, “Beyond the Camps: Beijing's Grand Scheme of Forced Labor, Poverty Alleviation and Social Control in Xinjiang,” which would not get peer-reviewed until its publication in the Journal of Political Risk (a journal with a long history of involvement with U.S. military and intelligence) on December 10, 2019. Zenz relies on scaremongering about China’s poverty alleviation programs and pair assistance programs (whereby a richer province gives monetary and other material aid to poorer provinces, manifesting in factories or educational support) to draw foregone conclusions of forced labor. One such poverty alleviation workshop mentioned in Zenz’s report can be seen in this vlogger’s video.
2019 July 14-22 – Journalists from 24 countries including India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Uzbekistan visit Xinjiang.
One of the journalists on this trip was Tunç Akkoç, General Manager of Turkey’s Aydınlık Daily (newspaper of Turkey’s Vatan Partisi). His report published on Xinhua is as follows. (2019-8-11)
Aydınlık Daily and Vatan Partisi have since rebuked the United States’ position in the controversy (Aydınlık 2020-2-21, Vatan Partisi’s statement reported in Aydınlık 2020-9-10 [Turkish language]).
2019 July 21 – China releases the white paper “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang.”
2019 August 17 – China releases the white paper “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang” (this is the white paper that states that “No terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started.”).
2019 August 17-23 – A media group from 16 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates visit Xinjiang.
2019 August 19-21 – Diplomats from Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Nigeria visit Xinjiang.
2019 August 28-September 1 – Diplomats from Yemen, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Zambia, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe visit Xinjiang.
2019 August 29 – ABC’s visit to the vocational centers.
2019 September 9-12 – Diplomats from 16 African countries (including Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Lesotho, Sudan and Zimbabwe) and the African Union visit Xinjiang.
2019 October 17 – Amy K. Lehr & Mariefaye Bechrakis from Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) publish “Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang: Forced Labor, Forced Assimilation, and Western Supply Chains.” Noticeably, in the interceding 10 months since the Hetian Taida Apparel report, the researchers do not have another “‘smoking gun’ for forced labor in Xinjiang,” and are left with witness testimonies and Zenzian logic that vocational training and rural poverty alleviation carries “a significant risk that in many cases the detainees and rural poor are not participating by choice,” without anything to back up that assertion.
2019 October 29 – 74th Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee (A/C.3/74/SR.37).
Total 24 countries and the European Union criticized China’s position on Xinjiang
United Kingdom joint statement on behalf of itself, Albania, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States
Represented in joint statement and criticized in individual capacity: United States
Criticized in individual capacity: European Union, Turkey
Total 57 countries supported China’s position on Xinjiang
Belarus joint statement on behalf of itself, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Laos, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Palestine
Represented in joint statement and supported in individual capacity: Bolivia (¶56), Burundi (¶52), Cambodia (¶49), Cameroon (¶48), China (¶66), Cuba (¶53), Congo (Republic of) (¶77), Equatorial Guinea (¶60), Guinea (¶70), Laos (¶76), Myanmar (¶61), Nicaragua (¶64), Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of) (¶73), Pakistan (¶68), Syria (¶55), Zimbabwe (¶57)
Supported in individual capacity: Ethiopia (¶72), Kyrgyzstan (¶59), Saudi Arabia (¶75 - note: qualified support)
2019 November – Sometime in November, Former Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives Fahri Hamzah led a delegation to visit Xinjiang.
2019 November 11 – World Bank releases a statement regarding its visit to Xinjiang concerning the vocational centers, finding no aberrations.
2019 November 16 – New York Times publishes a story about “leaked documents” concerning Xinjiang. These documents had strange grammatical errors and have been disavowed as false.
2019 December 5 – CGTN releases two specials about terrorism in Xinjiang, with footage never released to the public before, including footage of the above-mentioned attacks. They were made available to YouTube on December 11th.
2019 December 9 – Xinhua reports that students “participating in education and training programs of standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills and deradicalization at vocational education and training centers” have all graduated.
By the end of 2019 –
Nearly 1,000 personnel from diplomatic, media, and academic circles were invited to visit Xinjiang in 2019.
Xinjiang received more than 200 million tourists in 2019, up 41.6% from 2018’s 150 million.
From 2014 to 2019, nearly 2,923,200 residents of Xinjiang constituting 737,000 households were lifted out of poverty, dropping the poverty rate from 2013’s 19.4% to 1.24%. 645,000 were lifted out of poverty in 2019 alone. Xinjiang must still lift another 165,000 people out of poverty to meet China’s 2020 goals for poverty alleviation.