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
Part 8 - On the Nature of Unsubstantiated Allegations
The World Uyghur Congress began conducting activism based on the allegation of Xinjiang “concentration camps” in August 2017, four months after the promulgation of the Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations. The controversy entered mainstream Western discourse a year later in August 2018 with Gay McDougall’s unsubstantiated claims at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In the interceding time, claims of concentration camps, cultural genocide, demographic genocide, slavery, and mass sterilization have saturated media and political discourse. The evidentiary weakness of these rapidly escalating claims is evinced by the shifting numbers of alleged detainees, which has ebbed and flowed from 120,000 on the low end to up to 9 million out of a Uyghur population of roughly 12 million (2019).
While Western media often paints Xinjiang as a black box, Xinjiang has in fact never been closed or restricted to outside visitors until the outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2020 (unlike Tibet Autonomous Region, which requires most foreigners to acquire special permits to visit). Indeed despite the nearly 1,000 visits by outside observers and 200 million tourists to Xinjiang in 2019, no convincing photo or video evidence has emerged of supposed genocide in Xinjiang, much less the complete absence of any recent refugee crisis originating from Xinjiang.
Photos and videos fallaciously used to prove, show, or insinuate either concentration camps or slave labor of Xinjiang people include:
- An April 14, 2017 de-radicalization public talk at Luopu County Reform & Correction Centre (explanatory Twitter thread).
- An August 12, 2017 arrest of pyramid fraudsters in Bijie, Guizhou (explanatory Twitter thread)
- A video uploaded on September 17, 2019 appearing to show a routine prisoner transfer in what looks to be Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, with vests printed “Kashgar Detention House (喀什看守所).” (see Global Times, 2020-7-22, in response to the re-emergence of the video in summer 2020 and BBC’s confrontation of Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming using the video on 2020-7-19) Detention Houses are otherwise normal infrastructure in today’s China. (see this Zhihu answer for one person’s experience staying 37 days in a Detention House, and this post about the work of a police personnel tasked to a Detention House) [Chinese language]
- A December 21, 2019 transportation of suspected fraud criminals from Shanghai to Taiyuan by Taiyuan police (explanatory Twitter thread).
- A stock photo of a Chilean shoe factory from 2010 (Reddit post)
- Satellite imagery of assorted buildings in China, some of which are normal prisons and at least one of which is a 5-star apartment complex.
- In some extreme cases, videos from other countries entirely (video was from Indonesia - part of what is being said is “ampun, pak, gak lagi” - have mercy, I won’t do it again), videos from a Taiwanese BDSM club, or edited and pixelated photos to try to push the narrative.
It is clear that the burden of evidence for disproving allegations of slavery and genocide in Xinjiang has been set far higher than the burden of evidence for lodging these allegations in the first place. With the popular imagination saturated with images of alleged atrocities, it is difficult to argue for any course of U.S. action other than sanctions, isolation, and intervention. Such is the nature, by intent, of atrocity propaganda as it has been wielded to justify U.S. imperial adventurism.
If nothing else, the context and evidence provided in this timeline should make clear that spurious claims based on weak evidence have been wielded unilaterally by the U.S. and its allies to spurn China despite broad international approval for Chinese policy in Xinjiang.