Mounting evidence refutes CCP’s false narrative about Uyghurs, other minority groups
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opened an exhibition in Beijing to foreign visitors in mid-October 2021 that features pictures and videos of more than 50 alleged “terror attacks,” supposedly motivated by extremist ideologies, that occurred in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China from 1990 to 2016.
The show, critics contend, is the CCP’s latest attempt to justify its harsh surveillance and use of monitoring technology to persecute Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim-majority peoples that has led to the mass internment of more than 1 million people.
Senior CCP officials said the display “proves that the Xinjiang region is more open to show the international community what it has suffered, and showcases its confidence in current policies, which have brought hard-won stability,” according to the state-run Global Times newspaper. There have been no attacks in Xinjiang in almost five years, the Global Times reported.
A growing body of evidence, however, refutes claims of a terrorist threat in the region given the CCP’s repression of the minority populations. Recent reports also substantiate the CCP’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs, actions that many consider to be genocidal. (Pictured: A person stands in the tower of a detention center in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in April 2021).
“China’s policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be viewed in their totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group, in whole or in part,” according to a report released in March 2021 by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
The Chinese government “bears state responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghur in breach of the (UN) [United Nations] Genocide Convention,” said the independent report, titled “The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention” and written by more than 50 global experts in international law, genocide and the region.
George Washington University anthropologist Dr. Sean Roberts first widely debunked the notion that the limited violence in Xinjiang in recent decades could be tied to international terror groups in his September 2020 book, “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Campaign Against Xinjiang’s Muslims,” which was based on his 25 years of field research in Uyghur communities in Xinjiang, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
Roberts documented how the CCP hijacked the label of terrorism after 9/11 to apply it to scattered, violent acts of domestic resistance in Xinjiang. There was scant evidence that Islamic extremism was a motivating factor behind the Uyghur protests. Roberts detailed how the CCP’s allegations became “self-perpetuating” as security forces’ repressive policies disenfranchised Uyghurs at the local level, even provoking peaceful groups into violence. The groups, however, had little intent or capacity to engage in militant operations and limited international connections, Roberts found.
Now another book, titled “In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony” and released in October 2021, portrays life in Xinjiang since 2017 and reinforces Roberts’ assertions. Author Darren Byler, an assistant professor in the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, provides more detail as to how and why the CCP has been campaigning to label more than 12 million people as terrorists, even though only several hundred may have been involved in mostly isolated attacks provoked by discriminatory policies. Byler based his conclusions on interviews with detainees and camp workers and thousands of government documents.
Although Uyghurs, like Tibetans and Mongols, live on their ancestral lands and possess cultures that are ethno-racially distinct from China’s majority Han population, the Uyghur region holds vast natural resources and arable lands situated in a key node of China’s One Belt, One Road scheme, Byler told The Diplomat magazine. Moreover, the Uyghurs share a strong bond with other Turkic Muslim groups in Central Asia and Turkey, which poses a greater potential threat to CCP rule.
“There are many economic and political factors that contributed to the calculus of the [CCP] campaign, but in general I think the mass surveillance and internment project in Xinjiang should be viewed as a major test of Chinese capacities to conduct a sophisticated invasion, occupation, and transformation of spaces that were at the margins of Chinese control,” Byler told The Diplomat. “The lessons they have learned and technologies they have developed in Xinjiang will likely be adapted to a range of security and tactical situations as China takes a greater role on the world’s stage. This is not to say that I anticipate ‘new Xinjiangs’ emerging elsewhere on China’s frontiers, but that the Xinjiang experience will likely inform decision making and technology deployment.”
Moreover, the book “shows that within policing and camp systems, pervasive automated technologies have the effect of further normalizing immense cruelty. Because the technology systems are taken to produce a kind of truth when it comes to crime prediction, and because this truth cannot be questioned due to the black box effects of advanced technologies, the banality of unthinking bureaucratized procedures increases in exponential ways,” Byler told The Diplomat. “Ultimately, reversing automated crimes against humanity will require a rethinking of technology design and penalties for harmful design.”
Previously, the CCP had only displayed exhibits depicting Uyghur “terrorist acts” in Xinjiang, the Global Times reported, acknowledging a shift in the targeted audience. Notably, the Beijing exhibit opened to the world a month after a Uyghur photo show debuted in Geneva, titled the “Wall of the Disappeared,” which featured images of dozens of people who are missing or believed to be held in the camps, as well as interviews with camp survivors who detailed abuses such as forced sterilizations and dispossession of property, Reuters reported.
Organized by the World Uyghur Congress and funded by a grant from the United States, the Geneva exhibit will move to Berlin and Brussels. “We are committed to placing human rights at the center of our China policy, and we will continue to highlight the grave human rights abuses we see the PRC committing across China, in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere,” a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N. in Geneva told Reuters.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS