As global pressure grows over China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority, CJ Werleman considers how the Government is harnessing the far-right to counter human rights criticisms of the regime

The COVID-19 pandemic has made China a key rallying point for the far-right, as conspiracy theories claiming that the Coronavirus is a Chinese Government plot to infect and harm Western democracies fuel suspicion and hostility against Asians and immigrants – providing far-right political parties and movements new opportunities to recruit and radicalise.

Far-right groups have long been the natural enemy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is reality which was given further emphasis during the era of Donald Trump, with the former US President’s campaign manager and far-right ideologue Steve Bannon collaborating with exiled Chinese dissident and billionaire [Miles] Guo Wenhui to bring together anti-CCP activists among Chinese expatriate communities and the far-right.

“Miles Guo has been the toughest Chinese opponent the CCP has ever encountered,” Bannon told The Washington Post last year. “He has been the world’s leading fighter exposing the lies, the infiltration, and the malevolence of the CCP… [the US owes him] a debt of gratitude for his relentless mission against the Chinese Communist Party — the existential threat against the United States.”

A recent investigation by Politico found that Trump supporters are now flocking to Safe Chat, “a fast-growing platform known for its tolerance of high-octane MAGA content” that is funded by the Epoch Times – an English-language newspaper affiliated with China’s Falun Gong minority, who have long been persecuted by the CCP.

SafeChat “is not just MAGA-friendly,” observes Politico. “It’s also a conduit that enables fringe groups attacking the Chinese Communist Party to speak directly to – and influence – Trump supporters, creating a ‘Star Wars’ bar-like atmosphere where AR-15 enthusiasts and a growing number of white nationalists can mingle with Chinese dissidents.”

In short, the CCP has always loathed the far-right – but that was before global pressure was applied regarding its persecution of Muslim and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, a state of affairs which America, Canada and the Netherlands have described as “genocide”.

Now, China’s relationship with the far-right can accurately be described as complicated.


Daily Stormer

To defend itself against a mountain of evidence on its industrial-scale persecution of the Uyghur people, the CCP is amplifying fringe voices on the far-right to flood the zone with Islamophobic discourse and conspiracy theories.

When Vicky Xu – a Chinese journalist in Australia who was once an enthusiastic supporter of the Chinese Government – published a report on China’s Uyghur concentration camps for The New York Times in 2019, her family and friends in China were targeted in a campaign of harassment and intimidation by the Government.

When she published a report for The Australian Strategic Policy Institute a year later, she became the target of a co-ordinated sexualized smear campaign. “Photos being posted on Twitter and elsewhere are not my nudes,” she posted on Twitter. “That woman is clearly not me. Not all Asian women look the same.” 

Robert Potter, a cyber analyst and co-CEO of Internet 2.0, says the online bot infrastructure used to attack Xu is also used to amplify far-right content in Australia, including articles posted by the Australian Liberty Alliance – a far-right, anti-Muslim organisation which advocates banning Muslim migrants, mosques and burqas.

“This is incredibly dangerous stuff,” he says. “These efforts are seeking to astroturf fringe voices into the mainstream of the discussion on Xinjiang, amplifying fake news and Islamophobia in order to counter criticism of China’s human rights.”

Neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, has circumvented its ban from US-based servers by getting its DNS service from China, which has been “spread over a large number of individual IP addresses, all of which are served from China”, as observed by Ars Technica in 2019. China has the most stringent online censorship laws in the world and there is no way that the Daily Stormer website could be hosted without the CCP’s knowledge and approval.

A quick search of the site’s archives reveals why China has happily opened its door to the far-right publication, which frequently publishes articles in support of the CCP’s policies against Uyghur Muslims.

“The chinks show their perennial wisdom here” reads the lede to an article titled, ‘Chinese Communists Put a Million Moslems in Concentration Camps’. Others warn that “Moslems are the key to bringing down China” and praise the CCP for “taking steps to eradicate Islam completely within its borders”.

It is little wonder why Brenton Tarrant, the far-right extremist who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, made several donations to the publication and travelled to China six times, writing in his ‘manifesto’ that China is “the nation with the closest political and social values to his own”.

Alarmingly, a poll conducted by the Daily Stormer found that 81% of the roughly 2,000 Chinese participants on the site expressed sympathies towards Tarrant, which “hints at why China fascinates the far-right,” according to Guzi He, a columnist with the Daily Illini.

Earlier this year, the Daily Stormer’s founder Andrew Anglin advised like-minded groups and individuals who are under pressure from their respective government censors to “go talk to the Chinese” because “maybe they won’t look at your content, and maybe they will support you either way, even if you’re anti-Chinese, because you’re standing against the US Government. I don’t know. But you don’t have any other options”.

The Chinese and Western far-right make for strange bed fellows, but bed fellows nevertheless. Genocide is unique in its ability to prove the horseshoe political theory correct.

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