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How We Know China is Lying About Uyghur Genocide

Online propaganda, smears on survivors and a refusal to allow international officials to visit Xinjiang – CJ Werleman considers what Xi Jinping’s Government is giving away in its defensive approach to accusations of genocide

Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2020. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Bin

How We Know China is Lying About Uyghur Genocide

Online propaganda, smears on survivors and a refusal to allow international officials to visit Xinjiang – CJ Werleman considers what Xi Jinping’s Government is giving away in its defensive approach to accusations of genocide

We know that China is guilty of committing genocide against ethnic Uyghur in the Xinjiang autonomous zone for the simple fact that it declines every opportunity to prove its innocence.

Xi Jinping’s Government has denied dozens of requests made by foreign and independent observers to have unfettered access to Xinjiang – or what was independent East Turkestan for two brief periods, 1933 to 1934 and 1944 to 1949 – and has also expelled foreign journalists, while slapping sanctions on human rights activists and others who have earned Beijing’s ire.

When more than 40 countries urged China to allow the United Nations human rights chief immediate access to the Uyghur homeland on Tuesday to investigate credible reports that it has detained more than three million ethnic Uyghur, China responded by essentially telling the lead country, Canada, to take a hike.

The Canadian-led statement cited reports of torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, along with the forced separation of children from their parents. But Beijing countered, as it often does, by attacking the messenger – accusing Canada of perpetrating “serious human rights violations” against its indigenous people.

“Historically, Canada robbed the indigenous people of their land, killed them, and eradicated their culture,” read a statement by China’s representative at the UN. “We call for a thorough and impartial investigation into all cases where crimes were committed against the indigenous people, especially children”.

Similarly, the day after the US slammed China at the UN in May for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted: “The US claims that it cares about the human rights of Muslims. But it turns a blind eye to the sufferings of Palestinian Muslims in recent clashes between Israel and Palestine.”

Clearly, China’s entire defence strategy against credible claims that it is committing genocide rests entirely on whataboutism, while refusing to provide the international community with even a shred of evidence.

Two years ago, it promised to produce evidence to counter claims that it had forcibly separated Uyghur children from their parents and then sold them for adoption to Han Chinese families, with the then Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, telling the BBC: “We’ll try to locate them and let them know who they are, what they’re doing.”

These promises have not been met, leaving thousands of Uyghur migrants around the world fearing the worst for their missing grandchildren, nephews and nieces in China.

Meanwhile, the evidence against China continues to mount. The UN declared last week that it had “credible information” that Beijing is subjecting minority communities, including the Uyghur, to forced organ harvesting. “Forced organ harvesting in China appears to be targeting specific ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities held in detention, often without being explained the reasons for arrest or given arrest warrants, at different locations,” said a panel of UN human rights experts.

On cue, Beijing accused the UN of peddling “clumsy lies” and “slandering China” – without offering any evidence to refute the claims.

Earlier this month, Uyghur detention survivors gave evidence and testimony to the Uyghur Tribunal in London, including statements that affirmed China is forcibly removing organs from detainees to service the lucrative black-market trade in transplant surgery. The two dozen survivors recounted stories of gang rape, torture, forced sterilisations, forced abortions, forced family separations, food and medical deprivation and daily beatings and humiliation.

One former detainee told the tribunal: “They interrogated me for four days and nights with extreme torture methods. They made me sit on the ‘tiger’ chair. They hung me from the ceiling. They chained me to the wall and beat me with plastic, wooden, electric batons and metal wire whip. They pierced needles under my nails. I could take nap of 10 or 15 minutes only when I was seated on ‘tiger’ chair. They forced me to accept three crimes: instigating terrorism, organising terror activities, and covering up for terrorists. I denied everything.”

Rather than rebut these testimonies with evidence, China has instead resorted to accusing survivors of being ‘actors’ and paid stooges of the CIA. But, as the world has witnessed over the course of the past five years, Beijing is unable to tell its lies with consistency – having first denied the existence of its mass detention programme, before later defending it as “counter terrorism”, and then later changing that to “vocational training centres”.

That said, China’s lies are becoming ever more sophisticated, with a new investigation by The New York Times exposing evidence of an online influence campaign orchestrated by Beijing, with thousands of videos that show Chinese citizens scolding Western countries for accusing their Government of committing human rights abuses against the Uyghur.

“Most of the clips carry no logos or other signs that they are official propaganda,” the report said. “But, taken together, the videos begin to reveal clues of broader coordination – such as the English subtitles in clips posted to YouTube and other Western platforms. It all amounts to one of China’s most elaborate efforts to shape global opinion.”

Ultimately, if China has nothing to hide, it would allow foreign and independent observes to see Xinjiang for themselves and produce hard evidence to refute claims that it is committing genocide against the Uyghur, instead of producing propaganda videos and carrying out smear attacks against its accusers.

That it chooses not to is how we know that China is lying.

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