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China used Twitter, Facebook more than ever for Xinjiang Propaganda in 2020

ANI | Updated: Mar 31, 2021 21:04 IST

Hong Kong, March 31 (ANI): The Chinese government's propaganda activity on Twitter and Facebook over its policies toward ethnic minorities in Xinjiang reached an all-time high last year, as Beijing sought to portray its approach, including use of widespread internment camps and surveillance, as beneficial to the remote northwestern region.
According to new research from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the frequency of tweets about Xinjiang from Chinese state media and diplomatic Twitter accounts increased to an average of nearly 500 tweets per month in 2020, up from about 280 per month the prior year,
On Facebook, the group found, public pages operated by Chinese state media were some of the most popular sources for posts on Xinjiang, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
"Since early 2020, there's been a stark increase in the Chinese Government and state media's use of US social media networks to push alternative narratives and disinformation about the situation in Xinjiang. Chinese state media accounts have been most successful in using Facebook to engage and reach an international audience," read a key finding from the report.
It stated that the CCP is using tactics including leveraging US social media platforms to criticise and smear Uyghur victims, journalists and researchers who work on this topic, as well as their organisations.
"Chinese Government officials and state media are increasingly amplifying content, including disinformation, produced by fringe media and conspiracist websites that are often sympathetic to the narrative positioning of authoritarian regimes," the report read.
"This amplifies the reach and influence of these sites in the Western media ecosystem. Senior officials from multilateral organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), have also played a role in sharing such content," it added.
The Xinjiang Audio-Video Publishing House, a publishing organisation owned by a regional government bureau and affiliated with the CCP's United Front Work Department, has funded a marketing company to create videos depicting Uyghurs as supportive of the Chinese Government's policies in Xinjiang, according to the report.

Those videos were then amplified on Twitter and YouTube by a network of inauthentic accounts. The Twitter accounts also retweeted and liked non-Xinjiang-related tweets by Chinese diplomatic officials and Chinese state-affiliated media in 2020.
"China's approach to diplomatic and state media messaging has had to adapt in order to project power and influence in an open internet environment, where it has fewer levers to control information and shape opinion than it does over the Chinese internet," according to the researchers who wrote in the report.
"Shock tactics, disinformation, the circulation of conspiracy theories and leveraging fringe media outlets and individuals when their narratives align are new tools in the CCP's propaganda arsenal as it attempts to portray its control of Xinjiang positively in the face of credible, mounting evidence of human rights abuses and international criticism," the report stated.
Amid escalating tensions with Beijing, the Biden administration on Tuesday (local time) declared Chinese actions against the Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang as 'genocide'.
In a 2020 report on Human rights practices: China released on Tuesday, the US Department of State said: "Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang".
Former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo first officially declared genocide in Xinjiang during the waning days of the Donald Trump administration. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed Pompeo's assessment during his confirmation hearing, but the word's inclusion into Tuesday's report formalizes the outlook as an official US government assessment, Washington Post reported.
China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community, according to a report.
The designation of genocide would become an indelible stain on President Xi Jinping's legacy and further boost European nations to join the United States in imposing economic sanctions and calls to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (ANI)