Xinjiang and Uyghurs — What You’re Not Being Told

“1 million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps!” … “Ethnic Cleansing and Cultural Genocide!” … the western media is very effective at using emotional phrases. But what’s the real story? Let’s go beyond exaggeration, distortion and sensationalism.

First of all, the media will never show the peaceful, prosperous parts of Xinjiang:

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Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang

And Western media won’t talk about the billions of dollars that China has invested in Xinjiang, modernizing the cities, building 21 airports, linking with region with bullet trains etc.

Urumqi 4 night

Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang

Bullet Train 2

High-Speed Railway in Xinjiang

In 2018, the 21 airports in Xinjiang handled 33 million passengers

And there are also thousands of mosques in Xinjiang, whose recorded history goes back more than 2000 years when the ancient Silk Road linked China to Italy and Greece. In China, there are mosques that were built in the 10th century, which demonstrates the tolerance and respect for religious rights in Chinese society.

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There are about 20,000 mosques in Xinjiang

Also to remember are two nuggets of information: Xinjiang is a really vast region — it’s four times as large as California(!); and Uyghurs make up only about 40% of Xinjiang’s population.

Now, let’s break down the facts. There are four types of Uyghur Muslims:

  1. Well-educated Uyghurs who are moderate/secular Muslims
  2. Poor and lower middle-class Uyghurs
  3. Nomads
  4. Separatists and terrorists

Moderate/Secular Uyghurs

These are middle or upper middle-class Muslims who enjoy normal lives, have good jobs, and integrate easily with the mainstream Chinese culture. There are even popular Uyghur musicians, TV hosts, rappers (!) etc. in China. Here are two famous Uyghur actresses — Guli Nazha and Dilraba Dilmurat.

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Uyghur kids from educated families go to schools, live normal lives and have a lot of fun on social media like Tik Tok (“Douyin” in China):

 

And here is an upper class Uyghur wedding, for which obviously the family must have spent a lot of money!

 

Working Class Uyghurs

There are also many working class Uyghurs who may own restaurants and gift shops or work as artists and craftsmen in touristy places. Their lives aren’t bad and most of them don’t get into trouble with the government. here’s a quick slideshow :

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Really Poor Uyghurs

Then there are really poor Uyghurs who live in slums. These are prime targets for recruitment by jihadists. Many of these Uyghur kids work on the streets and shine shoes or help their families with menial jobs like taking care of donkeys or other animals.

Uyg kids 1+2

When the Chinese government mandates that these children go to school, the Western media scream bloody murder. What hypocrisy! If these Uyghurs come to the US, the children will be forced to attend schools as well. Here is a school that the “evil CCP” forces the Uyghur kids to attend:

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Most of these kids don’t even speak Chinese, which greatly limits their abilities to find jobs later on as adults. So when they learn Chinese in school, the western propaganda screams, “cultural genocide.” Sheer idiocy!

The BBC admits that the “communist” (gasp!) government has spent $1.2 billion in the last five years on upgrading and building new schools for children in Xinjiang. This should be applauded, not demonized!

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The Chinese government has done a phenomenal job by lifting 1.85 million Uyghur Muslims out of poverty between 2014 and 2017. Of course, the western media will never talk about it.

Nomadic Uighurs

Then there are Uyghurs who are herders and nomads in the vast Xinjiang region. Here’s a quick slideshow:

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Although it seems romantic, their lives are not compatible with modern days. Most of them are stuck in extreme poverty and their kids also grow up completely illiterate. Sometimes the Chinese government relocates tens of thousands of these people into the cities and gives them jobs, free housing, health care etc. Of course, US media will spin this as “ethnic cleansing.” (The government has helped millions of Chinese people in other areas get out of extreme poverty by similar relocation projects as well).

Many of these nomads appreciate the new life: “With central heating, gas, running water, Internet and cable TV, we no longer need to worry about things that troubled us in the past.”

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Sometimes, if the parents don’t want to give up their nomadic lives, the government may move the children to boarding schools, where they get free lodging, meals and education.

Separatists and Terrorists

What is not mentioned in the mainstream media is that the West has been stroking separatism in Xinjiang since the 1950s! When the Chinese communists won in 1949 (by defeating US-supported faction, which went on to establish Taiwan), the US started arming/funding separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang. The US brought in a lot of these extremists into Germany in the 1970s and helped them foment a movement for “East Turkestan.”  Currently, the so-called “World Uyghur Congress” (WUC) is funded and glorified by the US government through NGOs such as National Endowment of Democracy (NED) — which also played a major role in the Tiananmen Square clashes in 1989 (see my article). BTW, the story of “1 million Muslims in concentration camps” (sometimes it’s 2 or 3 million!) comes from testimonies of WUC members.

However, to the dismay of propagandists, no Muslim country is buying the “concentration camps” narrative. Turkey is the closest to Uyghurs, who are of Turkic origin. Turkish leader Erdogan was in China few days ago and said that the Uyghur re-education centers won’t affect China-Turkey relations.

Erdogan Xi July 2019

Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world —has also said that it understands China’s predicament of dealing with separatists. Similarly Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and even Saudi Arabia have dismissed the sensational stories. Many diplomats and reporters have visited these camps and have come out reassured.

One more historical perspective: After the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan ended in 1989, many of those fighters went to Central Asia. And the disease of Wahhabism spread to Xinjiang as well. From 2009 to 2015, there were a lot of terrorist attacks by the Uyghur jihadists (here’s an example). That’s when China decided to really crack down. During the peak of the Syrian war, about 18,000 radicalized Uyghur Muslims went to Syria and joined ISIS to fight Assad.

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Conclusion

Xinjiang also has a lot of economic implications. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has 1000s of freight trains and trucks carrying goods between China and Europe every year; and most of these trains and trucks go through Xinjiang. There are also many oil/gas pipelines from Central Asia that go through Xinjiang to power China’s industrial economy. An unstable Xinjiang will wreak havoc on the Chinese economy.

Belt and Road

The Chinese government is trying to help the poor people and fight the jihadists at the same time. While the West cries crocodile tears, Uyghurs are dancing and singing on “Uyghur Got Talent”:

 

The US really needs to fix its foreign policy, which is now based on chaos, confrontation, wars, Machiavellian divide-and-conquer strategies, and endless propaganda. The US needs a positive approach that’s based on cooperation, friendly competition and ethical policies.

Related blog post: Xinjiang in pictures (slideshow)

21 comments

  1. America should get its own house in order before accusing others. “1 million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps” sounds more like another “Huawei is spying on us” propaganda.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, may I ask, to clarify this article, would it be safe to travel there to see this for myself, ask questions of local people and officials without fear of government reprisal toward myself or others I would speak to?
    I’m very confused by both sides using propaganda and disinformation.
    I have seen the western media side on the Uyghur situation, as well as the Chinese answer to these allegations.
    Both sides seem to have quite fair points, though without seeing things for myself I’m worried that anyone who may wish to find out the truth would be likely accused of espionage or of spying.
    I don’t like to see western media shitting on another country due to economic wars, especially as we have seen how far China has come in recent times of industrialisation and modernisation of the country.
    I understand barely how hard this would be, and congratulate China and the Chinese government on these efforts, especially with the disruptions that the US is famous for world over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You sound very young and not too wise in the ways of the world. China is a vast area and if you know their culture, can speak dialects of Chinese or have a very close Chinese friend able to show you China…by all means go but if none of the above is true, you will be in trouble the first time you drop a piece of paper on the street. Note how clean the streets are? There are lots of rules in this communist country and they are to be respected. It’s really none of the US business how China cares for and protects it’s population. We in America have our own internal war to fight. why not join the fight right here to keep America free and to keep it working as a free and not a socialist or communist state. Every American should join in this fight because if not. You will find out very up close and personal what it’s like to live in a communist/socialist country and it’s not pretty for most.

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    2. at first i thought this is so but after watching youtube video of overseas tibetan and other tourist travelling it seem easy enough. abit trickery for the tibetan as she has to get a permit ahead of time, but western tourist has been riding the train into xinjiang and posting their travels without issue.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Looks like some truth and some propaganda so take it with a grain of salt. Either way it’s certainly not American’s business, we have our own problems trying to keep the socialist and communist out.

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      1. Whilst you are ‘keeping the commies out’ your government is keeping hundreds of children in detention, holding the most people in the world in its jails, spying on you, sending your kids to kill other people’s kids and maybe to be killed too… I could go on but I think you will have got the drift. Your enemy is not socialism but your government.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t have cable or satellite TV and did not watch much network TV. More than 20 years ago there was supposed to be unrest in Xinjiang and there was footage of a man in red jacket get off his motorbike and beat up a bystander. Captions: Anti government unrest in Xinjiang. I was amazed. People beat up fellow city mates to protest the government? And CNN on hand to capture this two-person episode?

    Some uprising indeed!

    KC

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mmmmm, had initially put this ‘news’ down to Western propaganda, another excuse to demonise China.

    But after watching the Vice News Tonight episode – “China’s Vanishing Muslims: Undercover In The Most Dystopian Place In The World” – I got a distinct case of the heebie jeebies.

    Unfortunately, with the crude restrictions on freedom of expression, association, debate and investigation that the state appears to enforce (no doubt to the envy of governments the world over), it seems impossible to get a truly reliable idea of what is going on there. But things did seem particularly ‘dystopian’.

    Being British by birth, I see ‘dystopian’ all around me in the wars of aggression in the Middle East, the demonisation and ill treatment of migrants and Muslims, the absolute surveillance of private citizens, the nefarious marriage of money & politics, etc. etc. So do not make the mistake of believing my concerns about this subject are simply the further vilification of China that we see in the propaganda of many governments and their compliant mass media stooges.

    Whilst technically being British, I consider myself a human being first and foremost, as I do my fellow human beings whether they be living in Xinjiang, Beijing, Cape Town, Bogota, San Francisco or anywhere else on this wonderful planet we all call home. We are all Citizens of the World.

    So to those commentators who would dismiss my opinions, or my wish to express them, on the basis that I should not concern myself with what is going on in China or with what the government of China is doing; or that the vile abuses levelled at people within and outside my home nation by Western governments somehow precludes me from engaging in conversation on the situation in Xinjiang, I would simply reiterate the words of the Good Doctor when he said that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. A sentiment which I assume resonates with all of us human beings, wherever we happen to reside.

    As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and the article above mentions several, often professed, good intentions behind what is occurring in Xinjiang, be it; strengthening national unity or identity; enhancing security and stability; eradicating poverty and offering education to those without, etc.

    All very noble considerations, but at what cost?

    To forcibly relocate tens of thousands of people puts me in mind of the European migrants and their “acquisition” of native lands in North America, evicting the legitimate and indigenous humans from their ‘homeland’.
    The re-education camps have numerous precedents across the colonised worlds where so called ‘savage’ people were helped to become ‘civilised’ in their oppressors’ image.
    Those children whose parents are kidnapped and bussed off for ideological re-education, who are themselves then transported to ‘boarding’ schools and kindergartens? The Inuits of Canada and Aborigines of Australia will be familiar with the heartbreak and pain caused by this ‘kindness’ in the name of assimilation.

    All too often, the errors and horrors of history are repeated ad nauseum and I fervently believe it is the responsibility of us all to question and challenge this as if our lives depended on it, because undoubtedly someone’s life does depend on it. Maybe not our own life, not today, but definitely somebody’s life, someday.

    Is ‘development’ really worth the pain, the dislocation, the despair, that is caused? The individuals detained, the freedoms restricted, the families torn apart?
    So that someone can then judge themselves privileged to watch another homogenised television version of “Somebody’s Got Talent”, living in an anonymous concrete box perched high above another anonymous McCity?

    Is there no other ‘means’ to achieve the laudable ends of a healthy, educated & secure existence for all those in our communities?

    Unless you’re on the receiving end of such policies, I think it is difficult to answer these questions truthfully. All too often, what happens to ‘Them’ is easily disregarded as we struggle with our own lives as ‘Us’.
    But as Pastor Niemöller so aptly stated, one day ‘Them’ could very well be ‘Us’ – and the empathy this alludes to is an essential human trait that we should all nurture.

    I believe that we can find unity in diversity, that to celebrate another is to enrich ourselves, to defend others is to ultimately guarantee our own security.

    In the Vice documentary, an everyday woman responded to the attack on Uighur cultural identity by saying that Han and minorities must be the same in order to ensure unity.
    She referenced the “Three Togethers” – eat together, live together, work together. Itself a laudable sentiment but “Togetherness” and “Sameness” are not the same thing.

    How stultifyingly boring life would be if all diversity was eradicated, that we all ate the same, thought the same, enjoyed the same?
    Where everybody ate noodles for breakfast or burgers for lunch or pizza for dinner. Where everybody listened to the same music or enjoyed the same humour or wore the same clothes.
    No more would we ask the question “do you like…?” or “what do you think about….?”

    To be human is to be diverse. No human alive today, no human who has ever lived or ever will live, is identical. We are all unique and it is our very differences that ultimately unite us.
    To attempt to forcibly remove these differences or to deny us the freedom to express these differences is to make us ‘unhuman’, to create robots that are more easily ‘managed’.

    It is this that I fear may be happening in Xinjiang to the Uighur men, women and children, as it is happening and has happened all over the world at one time or another, as it happens now in the part of the world I grew up in where there are those who would prefer people to simply be vigorous consumers, pliant workers, unquestioning followers and docile citizens.

    It is this that we struggle against, that we have always struggled against and will probably continue to struggle against till the end of time. Because our freedom to ‘be’, the freedom of our communities not to be ‘coerced’ into uniformity, the freedom of ourselves to find a peaceful coexistence outside of tyranny and brutality is at the core of a human being, the happiness that we strive for, for ourselves and for our fellows.

    I admit to knowing next to nothing about the situation in Xinjiang as I’m sure there are plenty of people in Xinjiang itself who know next to nothing about what is going on.
    This is why I am happy to have stumbled across this article and also the Vice documentary, to fill in some of the gaps in my ignorance, to answer questions and raise more.

    But what is known does already worry me:
    What happens in these forced re-education camps? Will we ever know? What is hidden & why?
    And what is not known worries me even more. Because we know that governments and bureaucrats can act unfeelingly in pursuit of ideology (I’m guessing many Chinese know this more painfully than I). We know that minorities are often easily and casually abused and we know that when decent people stand idle, evil can flourish.

    And it terrifies me that whilst all debate on this is limited to “this side is good and that side is bad” or “the end justifies the means”, small children will be crying themselves to sleep, mothers and fathers will be sick with worry, separated, isolated, in unfamiliar surroundings, hundreds of miles from one another and from their homes, their communities, their neighbours & friends, with no contact and no idea if their loved ones are well, unable to console one another.

    This is no way to live & I truly would not wish it on my worst enemy.

    More than this I do not know and cannot say, but history teaches us that terror lurks in darkness. I give my utmost respect and solidarity to those, like yourselves, shining a light on and searching for the truth in Xinjiang.

    Peace,
    Josh

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  5. p.s.

    Just a more positive note to balance my rather glum & worrisome post above, to say that China, its recent developments, rich history and potential on the global stage in the 21st Century fascinate and excite me.

    China’s potential to be a global hub for technological and environmental development is almost unimaginable in scale and this is what I find so exciting. I have been travelling with my bicycle for more than 5 years, through Europe, East Africa, South Asia and now South East Asia with China as my destination, to explore, witness & interact there for myself, to a small degree – as it’s such a big country!!

    But with global developments over the past 30 years in particular and 80 years in general, in terms of society and social development, I just hope that the mistakes & injustices of the past are not compounded in the rush to change but rather avoided wherever possible.

    And whilst I am concerned over such dangers, I am ever optimistic that human beings will continue to find a way to ensure their freedoms are protected alongside the well being of our communities. As a nation of some considerable number of human beings, I can only imagine China will continue along this path in ways we cannot yet imagine.

    But if we are going to collectively manifest that Other World that is possible, we do need to be ever vigilant and proactive. For I have seen & experienced the dangers of authoritarianism and blind consumerism in my own lifetime, dangers for our communities, our environments and our selves, dangers highlighted by the likes of Orwell, Huxley & many others in all parts of the World.

    As a species, I believe we do better and better every generation, but as the magnitude of our successes increases exponentially, so too do the potential risks of ill conceived or poorly implements policies.

    Freedom is key, without which all else is but a temporary distraction.

    …….sorry to waffle on so much, I have been travelling alone for the past couple of months and am probably lacking a bit of social interaction besides the fleeting conversations I have along the Way :-)))

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just want to say the government never push or convince us to give up our cultures and religions! Instead to protect our cultures! Learn mandarin is definitely necessary important thing for us. Because we need to get a good education good life better future! Some Western media wrote Chinese government have been assimilating us that’s lies ! We also learn English as well that you can’t say western countries are assimilating us as well !

    Liked by 1 person

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