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China defends its atrocities in Xinjiang

ANI | Updated: Apr 12, 2021 18:56 IST

Hong Kong, April 12 (ANI): The horrors of Chinese atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), in China's northwest, are inexorably emerging on an almost daily basis. In response, China has continually changed its narrative about its mass internment of Uyghurs.
Organizations such as the United Nations estimate at least a million Muslims are incarcerated in concentration camps, which China insists are "vocational training centers". Such a figure equates to 10 per cent of Xinjiang's adult Muslim population.
Beijing is now feeling Western pressure over its gross human rights abuses, and it is angrily wielding its entire arsenal of instruments to refute allegations and deflect criticism. In January 2021 the USA was the first to accuse China of genocide, with others following suit as diplomatic pressure ramps up.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exhibits irrational fear over instability and dismemberment of China, with top leaders advocating ethnic blending of the nation's 120 million ethnic minorities. By that, they mean making ethnic minorities more like the Han majority. China wants to meld minorities into a cohesive "state-race," with "stability maintenance" a key driver.
Chairman Xi Jinping advocated early on at a Central Ethnic Work Conference, "We should not continue with what is rotten." Rather, China should "discard the dross and select the essence; weed out the chaff to bring forth new roots". The first couple of years of Xi's rule saw widespread Uyghur militant attacks against the state, angering the paramount leader and turning a softer approach into a harsh one.
Xi personally set about transforming Xinjiang into a social re-engineering laboratory, with XUAR party secretary Zhang Chunxian pushed aside by Chen Quango in August 2016. Chen advocated a "clenched fist" approach, and his appointment marked a turning point in Xi's strategy. The CCP abandoned small-scale de-radicalization work and created a massively scaled "concentrated transformation through education" apparatus.
Chen spoke of a five-year plan to alter Xinjiang society: stabilizing the situation in the first year; consolidating during the second year; normalizing the third year; and achieving "comprehensive stability" within five years. Chen has been in power for nearly five years, but the campaign is not slackening.
The CCP was secretive about its concentration camps for the first 1.5 years. When news about them started escaping, China's first response was to vehemently deny their existence.
When mounting evidence to the contrary became overwhelming, China changed its tune and claimed they were training centers to give the backward Uyghur people valuable job skills. Yet, if this was so and the camps were so holistically beneficial, why did China originally cover up their existence?
Furthermore, if these were vocational training schools that Uyghurs attended voluntarily, why did so many reports from former detainees of torture and abuse become rife? Thus, China's supposed raison d'etre for these camps is not logical.
This phase of China's propaganda campaign highlighted the positive aspects of its pogrom. This might involve inviting foreign diplomats on highly controlled visits, or encouraging "useful idiots", typically foreigners or Chinese media outlets, to deny the existence of concentration camps.
China's obfuscation was often accompanied by the canard that these camps were also "preemptive measures against extremism". China provided evidence for their success, such as the fact that no terrorist act has occurred since their establishment. In other words, ends justify the means, no matter how abhorrent the treatment that many innocents undergo and how families are split asunder. Many Uyghur children were carted off to orphanages when both parents were incarcerated, allowing the government to indoctrinate them and alienate them from their own culture.
Again, it could be argued, if there is now no terrorism in the XUAR, why are the prisons not being scaled back?
Soon, the next phase was to say that these camps were only a temporary measure. Indeed, at the March 2019 National People's Congress, Shohrat Zakir, the Xinjiang government's chairman, said, "Generally speaking, we will have fewer and fewer people at these centers and, if one day the society no longer needs them, then these training centers will gradually disappear."
However, Zakir's comments are illogical. If "vocational training centers" are doing so much good in educating Uyghurs, why would they be phased out? Furthermore, so grand is the scale of China's internment that it cannot lightly relinquish control of so many. After having started on this radical course, Beijing is obliged to perpetuate it to control the populace's behavior and thinking.
Claims they were temporary camps was merely a ploy to defray criticism and soften the harsh reality of their existence. While some camps might be eventually hibernated, there is no chance all will be closed, since they remain a powerful deterrent to scare the Uyghur population into submission.
Zakir also refuted Western estimates of detainee numbers. "As to how many trainees are at these centres...the number is dynamic and changing. It's far from the hype perpetuated by some people that there are nearly one million people at these centers." His comments underscored how sensitive numbers are. Beijing will not say how many are imprisoned, only that others' claims are exaggerated.
As the CCP becomes more bitterly vociferous, reflecting the outward pressure it feels, the most recent efforts have been to vilify and discredit Western academics instrumental in exposing China's horrifying activities. One of the most prominent is academic Adrian Zenz at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany.
China has been using social media like Facebook and Twitter - which are banned for the average citizen in China - to belittle such academics. Using fake accounts, their personal integrity and research have been attacked.

Illustrating China's growing desperation, it is now resorting to economic retaliation against companies deemed to have "hurt Chinese feelings". For instance, some 85% of Chinese-produced cotton comes from Xinjiang, and China produces approximately 50% of the world's cotton. Swedish firm H&M fell victim to such economic terrorism after it had voiced concern over Xinjiang cotton being harvested by forced labour in September 2020.
It was only in late March that the Communist Youth League seized upon H&M's concern, stating, "It is making up lies and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, and it wants to make money in China in the meantime? Wishful thinking!" This led to millions of patriotic responses and a backlash against Western brands. Some H&M outlets were forced shut, plus it was deleted from e-commerce platforms like Alibaba. Other brands like Adidas, Burberry, Hugo Boss and Nike felt China's wrath too.
The timing was not coincidental. On March 22, Canada, the EU, UK and USA had announced coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials for Xinjiang abuses. This Communist Youth League campaign was an extension of Beijing's angry political response to such public humiliation.
Unfortunately, it will become increasingly difficult for foreign businesses to placate the CCP and stick to some semblance of Western morals. Silence will be the most popular method of navigating troubled waters.
In 2019, Zhang Xiao, China's ambassador in Kazakhstan, modeled a typical Chinese reaction to accusations of Uyghur atrocities: "Their intentions are clear - to slander China's Xinjiang, to stir up hatred among different ethnic groups and friction among religions, and to sabotage the Chinese people's efforts on antiterrorism and safeguarding stability."
China fears the "three evils" of terrorism, religious extremism and separatism. Zhang explained of Xinjiang: "All these measures aim to help people who were instigated by the three evil forces or influenced by extremism to come back to reason and to return to society to live a normal life. In order to achieve this purpose, China set up the training centers in accordance with China's Constitution, the Counterterrorism Law and the Regulations of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on De-radicalization, and by referring to the successful experience of counterterrorism from other countries." This is another CCP ploy, quoting domestic Chinese laws as though they trump international human rights.
Zhang added to the deceit: "The training centers in Xinjiang do not target any ethnic group or certain religion, and all people there are treated equally without discrimination. There are two criteria for whether an individual should be in the centers - whether they participated in illegal activities of the three evil forces and whether they pose a threat to the society. The training center is not prison, but a school for the public. There is only one goal for the school - to educate people and to stop good people becoming bad." This is eerily reminiscent of the movie Minority Report, where people could be arrested for crimes not yet committed.
Evidence of Xi's ruthless pogrom is insurmountable. Indeed, Zenz bases much of his research on the Chinese government's own documents, which acknowledge that "voluntary trainees" are actually undergoing forced detention. Their "schools" feature guard towers, high walls, barbed wire and extensive camera monitoring systems, according to construction tender documents.
Furthermore, large numbers of personnel have been hired to guard these facilities. For example, one county employed 212 teaching staff but more than double that amount for security. Camps are overseen by the euphemistically named Education and Training Bureau, whose funding emanates from the domestic security budget alongside other public security and law enforcement agencies.
Zenz has also found official references to brainwashing. A Xinyuan County justice bureau work report from 2017 said this work must "wash brains, cleanse hearts, support the right, remove the wrong". It all underscores how brutal Xi's communist regime actually is.
Nobody in Xinjiang dares speak out. Even Han Chinese or CCP members sympathetic to the Uyghurs' plight are forced into silence, for they would be immediately branded "two-faced individuals" and rooted out. For example, Han salesman Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment in 2016 for criticizing the Xinjiang policy.
The atrocities continue too. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released a report stating more than 80,000 Uyghurs had been moved out of Xinjiang to factories in nine Chinese regions and provinces, including factories making products for famous Western brands. Uyghur "workers" are not allowed to leave their dormitories without permission, cannot observe religious practices, are constantly monitored and must attend ideological sessions. ASPI concluded it amounted to forced labour.
At least 19 provinces have been given quotas to hire Muslim minorities after their "re-education", thus diluting the concentration of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Zenz reported last month, "New evidence ... provides strong proof of the systemically coercive nature of Xinjiang's labour transfer programs ... These sources also show that the primary aims of labour transfers are not economic, but political and demographic. Government documents state that labour transfers are part of 'raising population quality', a concept commonly found in family planning policy that has been associated with eugenics."
Zenz continued: "Labor transfers, birth prevention and re-education camps arguably represent a tripartite, mutually complementary approach to Beijing's coercive social reengineering project in the XUAR. As such, they form an integral part of the state's campaign of cultural and demographic genocide." Expect China to export this policy to other restive regions like Tibet too.
James Leibold, Head of the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University in Australia, commented in 2019 on China's response to criticism. "The chief concern of party officials is to create a plausible and palatable counter-narrative (with suitable voices and imagery) for consumption by China's key trading partners in the Muslim world and beyond."
The international community's slow and piecemeal response emboldened China to continue with its persecution of Uyghurs. However, growing resistance in the West is eroding Chinese confidence that it could muffle or isolate international criticism. Amidst greater exposure, one of Beijing's greatest fears is a backlash against its hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics. China basked in the international glory of hosting the Olympics in 2008, and it hopes to emulate that next year.
The prospect of the Olympics being marred by boycotts is a humiliating specter for the CCP, so it is already ramping up its propaganda campaign. Part of this is to point fingers at others like the USA for their history of slavery or current racial tensions. Its weak argument equates to China saying it should not be criticized now for performing the same crimes others have done in the past.
On the surface, the XUAR looks peaceful, but the CCP has actually created a false sense of security and simply pasted over the cracks. This "security" will only continue as long as camps keep hundreds of thousands locked up. Any slackening of this level of control will result in spikes of resistance, thus forging a vicious cycle of clampdowns. Nor can the CCP readily reverse its policy, for it cannot admit error.
Liebold concluded: "Through its obsessive focus on social stability rather than on the deep inequalities and mistrust existing in Xinjiang society, the CCP is stoking the flames of social decay, atrophying the very cells that comprise the body politics in China. Death may not be immediate, but the terminal nature of the illness seems increasingly certain, as is the irreparable damage to the Uyghur culture and people." (ANI)