<For more discussions on this topic, check out my new book China, China, Chyyna: Greatest Disruption to American Century>
“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:
And Western media won’t talk about the billions of dollars that China has invested in Xinjiang, modernizing the cities, building 21 airports, linking the region with bullet trains etc. Here’s a video of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. See how prosperous it is:
The Chinese government’s efforts are reflected in the exponential GDP growth of the Xinjiang region. In 2020, extreme poverty in Xinjiang was completely eliminated!
Regarding the Muslim minority, there are thousands of mosques in Xinjiang, a region 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.
Many westerners don’t understand that Uyghurs are not the only Muslims in China. There are also 20+ million “Hui” Muslims, who are different from Uyghurs and are living peacefully throughout China. Then there are other Chinese Muslim ethnic groups such as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Uzbeks, and Salars, who also have no problems with the government.
As for religious freedom, there are thousands of Imams who lead the mosques in Xinjiang; and here is Abudulrickv Tumyazi, President of Xinjiang Islamic Association, giving an interview:
Here are two photos of large numbers of Uyghurs praying in Kashgar and Turpan, two cities in Xinjiang:
Like a few other provinces, Xinjiang is an “autonomous” region, which means it is run by Uyghurs for the most part. For example, the current governor is Shohrat Zakir, an Uyghur man who’s been in charge since 2014.
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. Overall, Uyghurs account for only 0.7% of China’s population. That’s about the same percentage as the Native American population in the U.S. now.
Does this sound like genocide?
Consider the following facts and ask yourself if they sound like genocide of Uyghurs:
- Uyghurs were exempted from the one-child policy that China initiated in 1978.
- Uyghur population in Xinjiang has doubled in the last forty years. Between 2010 and 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew by 25% (while Han population in that region grew by 2%).
- Also, life expectancy in Xinjiang has increased from just 30 to more than 74 since 1949.
- Uyghurs (and other minorities in China) also get many preferential treatments — Chinese affirmative action — in colleges and other areas.
- Xinjiang’s GDP has grown 1000% in the last 20 years; and absolute poverty in the region has been totally eradicated.
Uyghurs are living longer, growing in population, and becoming wealthier. What a strange way for China to eliminate Uyghurs!
Not all Uyghurs are the same
Now, let’s break down the facts. There are four types of Uyghur Muslims:
- Well-educated Uyghurs who are moderate/secular Muslims
- Poor and lower middle-class Uyghurs
- Separatists and terrorists
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, rappers (here’s an example), TV hosts, politicians etc. in China. Here are two famous Uyghur actresses — Guli Nazha and Dilraba Dilmurat. There are also male Uyghur actors like Merxat Yalkun.
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!
Politically, there are also powerful Uyghur people. One such example is Arken Imirbaki, who has been the Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress since 2013. More importantly he’s a member of the powerful Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
Then there is An Waer, the Uyghur man who is the Chinese ambassador to Bahrain, the Islamic country in the Middle East! Below are the pictures of Imirbaki and Waer.
And Uyghurs serve in the Chinese military as well. Here are some Uyghur women in the PLA (People’s Liberation Army):
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 :
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, camels etc.
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:
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!
The Chinese government has done a phenomenal job by lifting 3 million Uyghur Muslims out of poverty between 2014 and 2019. Of course, the western media will never talk about it.
Whining about relocations
China watchers endlessly whine about relocation of Uyghurs. For example, in this article, the propaganda outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA) cries about how about 400 Uyghur families in a remote village were relocated by the Chinese government. However, the article admits that these people used to live in houses made of mud and reed [grass]; and they didn’t have TV, phones, electricity or even running water. This is not “Uyghur culture”; this is simply extreme poverty. If living like this is so great, why don’t we all go back to the 18th century?
Here’s a 30-second clip on how a desert town called Aktash in Xinjiang was modernized and helped relocate 14,000 ultra-poor Uyghurs. Anyone who has lived in a developing nation and seen harsh poverty and slums … will appreciate the virtue of such programs.
Watch this quick video about how the Chinese government helped a rural Uyghur family in Xinjiang move into modern housing and helped everyone in the family get jobs. This is a true humanitarian approach that focuses on poverty alleviation/reduction.
By the way, if these Uyghurs continued living in extreme poverty, the western talking heads will cry, “Oh, look, the Hans in Shanghai have skyscrapers, while neglecting the poor Uyghurs living in mud houses.” You can’t please these Sinophobic spin-doctors.
Then there are Uyghurs who are herders and nomads in the vast Xinjiang region. Here’s a quick slideshow:
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.”
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
China has struggled with terrorism since 1990 when Uyghur Mujahideens returned from Afghanistan. However, China failed in explaining the terrorist problem to the rest of the world. So, of course, western media took control of the narrative. Now CGTN has released a few documentaries (like this one), which is a good start. Here’s a 1-min excerpt:
History of Western Subversion
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 the US-supported faction, which went on to establish Taiwan as the new fake China), the US started arming/funding separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Intelligence documents declassified in the 1990s show how the US gave millions of dollars every year to Tibetan dissidents, including Dalai Lama. Then the US also trained Tibetan guerillas in Nepal as well as in Colorado.
As for Xinjiang separatists, 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) and Hong Kong riots (see my blog post). NED is just a front for regime change operations by the USA. Allen Weinstein was the man who played a key role in the creation of NED in the early 1980s. Many years later, he openly admitted that, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
In Dec 2020, NED tweeted that it had been funding Uyghur separatism since 2004. To really rub it in, the tweet showed Xinjiang with the blue “Turkestan” flag. Incredible hubris and chutzpah.
As British politician, writer and journalist George Galloway revealed, the U.S. was trying to use Bin Laden in a proxy war against China in the early 1990s.
Much of the recent atrocity propaganda stories come merely from hearsay testimonies of WUC members and separatists. There are also horror stories about organ harvesting spread by Falun Gong members in the so-called China Tribunal.
WUC is led by a woman named Rebiya Kadeer, who used to be … the richest woman in all of China! That’s how much discrimination she faced as an Uyghur. While she’s spreading all kinds of lies now, her granddaughters back in Xinjiang made her a video that shows how Uyghurs are enjoying modern subway/metro systems and upscale malls that feature stores like Gucci and Versace.
Fake News and Atrocity Propaganda
As for the allegations, it’s worthwhile to point to a 2014 NY Times article that called the refugee/asylum process an “Industry of Lies.” It talks about how refugees from China and elsewhere were taught to make up horror stories which were, of course, impossible to verify. Later, US federal officials secretly recorded conversations of lawyers coaching their clients to lie. The article concluded that, “most asylum applications were at least partly false, from fabricated narratives of persecution to counterfeit supporting documents and invented witness testimony.” However, now that China is officially a geopolitical enemy, every allegation from anti-China separatists must be totally believed!
Radio Free Asia (RFA) — run by the US government — publishes and broadcasts endless amount of fake news about China and Uyghurs. Most of the RFA stories are purely wild claims that are completely unsubstantiated. For example, a recent sensational story was “Xinjiang’s mosque was replaced a toilet.” Where is the picture of the old mosque? Where is the picture of the toilet? None shows. The photo in the article is completely unrelated and undated. If this kind of tabloid journalism is sad, what’s sadder is that dozens of other websites and even some mainstream media republish stories from the RFA.
Another source for crazy propaganda is the social media, where people post sensational fake photos and videos that quickly go viral (revealing the average IQ of people on social media).
- For example, Uyghur separatists/activists posted a picture of a man with eyes and lips stitched, and claimed that China was doing this to Uighurs. However, it was a picture from 17 years ago of an Iranian refugee in the UK.
- In another instant, a video of Indonesian police beating up a thief was posted as “Chinese beating up a Muslim for reading the Quran.” And that stupid video got millions of views.
- The President of Uyghurs Projects Foundation tweeted a picture of children in the trunk of a car and claimed that Uyghurs were being forced into homelessness by cruel China. Well, it turned out to be a picture of Romanians going on a holiday more than a decade ago in Germany!
- In another case, a photo from a sex/BDSM club in Taiwan was used to claim that Uyghurs were being tortured in China.
- A viral video in 2020 claimed to show handcuffed and blindfolded Uyghurs being led by the police. It was actually an old video from another province (Guizhou) where some non-Uyghur (Han) people got caught in a massive financial fraud (pyramid scheme).
Some more examples mentioned in the video below.
Fake News in Mainstream Media
Mainstream US media is no better. For example, Forbes wanted to write an article about “forced labor” in Xinjiang. When they couldn’t find any real photo, they just went to Getty image and bought an old picture — from ten years ago — of a shoe factory in Chile and used it instead! No journalistic ethics.
Here are two more laughable propaganda from mainstream people. First, an NPR reporter, Emily Feng, tweeted that China put communist hammer, sickle and star on a mosque. This ignorant person doesn’t even know that a crescent moon and star is a very Islamic symbol that is found in mosques as well as flags of many Muslim countries (like on Pakistan and Turkey flags). BTW, here’s the hammer and sickle symbol. Then there is Timothy Grose, a professor from Indiana, who says that a Chinese dentist teaching a Uyghur child how to brush teeth properly is … a symbol of colonization! American propaganda really destroys human brain cells.
In late August 2020, BuzzFeed News published a sensational article that claimed that Baidu — China’s Google-like app — hides and blanks out “concentration camps” on maps! Well, guess what? Baidu didn’t hide anything; and, more importantly, the ominous looking buildings turned out to be nice suburban apartment buildings, some of which are rated five stars. This is utterly despicable and unethical journalism that callously spreads malicious lies.
Then there is ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) — a fake think tank from Australia — that is funded by western governments (US, UK, Australia etc.) and also weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. ASPI constantly spreads Sinophobia. Like Buzzfeed, it also uses satellite images to claim that any building in Xinjiang with a fence or a wall is a “detention center” or “re-education camp” or “concentration camp”. It’s a full-time job to debunk these wild and crazy claims. China’s Global Times went through several coordinates and published the details of actual buildings, which ranged from schools to nursing homes. Here’s an example of a scary looking satellite image that turns out to be an elementary school:
And how about the iconic photo that has been constantly used by western media for the last two years? This allegedly secret photo is often the first (and the only) proof that people bring up for the existence of concentration camps:
First of all, the above photo is not a secret asset that brave western journalists or spies obtained heroically. It’s from a Chinese government’s website — here’s the link! This was a big event that the local Xinjiang government proudly shared to show how it’s fighting extremism. Second, this was just a 3-day de-radicalization program. Western propaganda shamelessly turned this into a Nazi-like concentration camp.
1 million, 3 million, who cares?
There’s an echo chamber of fake news, where the US/western governments, think tanks, NGO’s and media repeat evidence-free claims, conspiracy theories, and lies. This incestuous relationship is revealed in this quick interview with Omer Kanat, Chairman of World Uyghur Congress (WUC). He tells Max Blumenthal, “We think there are 1 million people in education camps. We don’t know for sure. It’s an estimate from the media.”
The “concentration camps” story first came out in 2018 during the intense US-China trade negotiations. Coincidence? Not! In early 2018, Radio Free Asia (RFA) first came out with the bombshell story, claiming that 120,000 Uyghurs were being detained. (RFA is funded by the US government and was blatantly operated by the CIA during the Cold War against the USSR).
As the trade deal stalled, the US upped the ante and increased the number to 1 million! This was based on a fake study by another US government’s NED-funded group called China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), which worked with a German guy named Adrian Zenz — an absolute, far-right, Christian, religious zealot — and came up with the 1 million number.
Whatever Adrian Zenz writes about China gets widely published western media and taken as unimpeachable truth. This conspiracy theorist doesn’t speak Chinese, has visited China only once (13 years ago), and was never a “China scholar.” However, he is a religious extremist who co-authored one book about “rapture” — the time when Jesus will allegedly come back and all the non-Christians — Muslim Uyghurs included — will burn in fire. This unhinged guy is just a propaganda tool for western intelligence.
Now, let’s look at how Zenz came up with his “1 million” number. He came to this dubious conclusion after (allegedly) interviewing EIGHT people! Basically, the strategy is to talk to some separatists from some remote villages in Xinjiang, get nice round estimates (250, 500 etc.), and extrapolate/multiply for the entire Uyghur population! Also, notice how they don’t even reveal the name of the villages! How can Chinese officials verify or refute this hatchet job? This is preposterous, without an iota of logic or objectivity! Here’s the link to the actual study and a screenshot of the “stats”:
Then an American – Gay McDougall – went to a UN group meeting and repeated the 1 million claim. Soon, all the mainstream media shouted that the “UN says there are 1 million Uyghurs in camps.” Later, a famous Uyghur “activist” – Rushan Abbas – went on Reddit and pumped up the number to 3 million! Insane propaganda that has no limit.
Muslim Countries Support China
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 in 2019 and said that the Uyghur re-education centers won’t affect China-Turkey relations.
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 Xinjiang camps and have come out reassured. Even the World Bank went to Xinjiang in 2019 and looked at the vocational programs and came back fully satisfied!
Here’s a video of journalists and diplomats visiting a classroom in a re-education camp in Xinjiang:
Oh, on the other hand, the US and the EU even refused to visit these camps. It’s a lot easier to sit back and spread fake news.
In 2019, 57 Muslim countries from the Organization of Islamic Council expressed support for China’s Xinjiang strategy. In 2020, 46 countries told the Human Rights Council at the UN that they support China’s handling of Muslims and other minorities.
Other countries have de-radicalization programs too! And Europe fights radical Islam, closes down mosques, regulates Islamic teaching etc.
One surprising but little mentioned fact is that other countries have similar programs! Malaysia, for example, has its own de-radicalization programs for ISIS fighters returning from Syria! When Kazakhstan has a rehab programs for radicalized people, the New York Times writes a sympathetic article and makes the program look like Disneyland!
France tried its own de-radicalization programs for Islamic extremists and has now said it won’t allow “political Islam”, will crack down on separatists, and ban foreign funding of French mosques & Imams (preachers). Macron wants only state-certified Imams to teach in mosques; and says that radicalized Islamists are the biggest threats since Hitler! French Prime Minister said that “radical Islam” is the enemy. France and many other European countries have also shut down mosques, banned home-schooling, banned burqas, niqabs, and even hijabs in schools and government. France even arrests 10-year-old children under a law called “apology for terrorism,” if the children express the wrong opinions!
Hmmm … what about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, human rights, blah blah ….?
Screenshot of an article about French re-education camps for terrorists:
Germany also has de-radicalization programs and even a judge in the US has sentenced some jihadists to a program affiliated with the German one! But the “China Bad” people are obsessed with one country. In 2020, Germany declared that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and shut down many mosques. In 2016, Germany banned another Islamic group and raided whopping 190 mosques.
By the way, China said in late 2019 that it has shut down all these rehab/vocational training centers. But the western smear campaign continues…
One last important note …
One more historical perspective: In the 1980s, many Uygurs went to Afghanistan and joined the Mujahideen war against the Soviet Union. When the war ended in 1989, these radicalized fighters returned to Xinjiang and brought the diseases of Wahhabism and jihadism. In 1990, they launched a major terrorist attack in the township of Baren. When China started cracking down on the jihadists, many went back to Afghanistan, got funded by Bin Laden (and Saudi Arabia?), and started a terrorist group called East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) around 1998.
In 2002 (and a few times since then), the UN officially labeled ETIM as a terrorist organization linked to Al Qaeda. Later, this group changed its name to Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), but it’s the same terrorist organization. In an utterly disgusting move, the Trump administration de-listed ETIM from the terrorist list after losing the re-election in Nov 2020. Now, the U.S. can openly fund, arm and train Uyghur terrorists. Think about that.
Ironically or hypocritically, the US periodically bombs Uyghur ETIM terrorists in Afghanistan and even keeps some Uyghur terrorists in Guantanamo!
From 2008 to 2015, there were a lot of terrorist attacks — suicide bombings, explosives, knife attacks, car attacls etc. — by the Uyghur jihadists (here’s an example) within China. Even during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Uyghur terrorists launched suicide bombings in Xinjiang. That’s when China decided to really crack down. By the way, this is also the reason why China banned Twitter, Facebook and Google, which were all operating in China until 2009. When China requested data on the rioters and jihadists, the American social media companies refused. Yes, US media and social media are all tools of color revolutions and the military-spy complex.
Furthermore, during the peak of the Syrian war, about 18,000 radicalized Uyghur Muslims went to Syria and joined ISIS to fight Assad.
Below is a slideshow of Uyghur terrorists (members of ETIM, TIP, Al Qaeda and ISIS) and their radicalized children in Syria.
Xinjiang also has a lot of economic implications. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had more than 9,600 freight trains going through Xinjiang, while carrying goods between China and Europe in 2020. 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.
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”:
On a similar note, if you go to YouTube, you can find numerous Uyghur channels, where they have songs and dances — traditional and modern, soap operas, talk shows, games, and more. Here are some I found through casual browsing: Yurtum TV, Diyarim Media, Uyghur Telewiziyesi, Uyghur Songs, Uyghur Beauty, and Uyghur Song.
There are also Pinterest boards like this one that shows thriving, beautiful Uyghur culture.
A really good vlogger is “Anni from Xinjiang.” She travels all over Xinjiang and visits shops, restaurants, and even homes of regular people. Although she speaks in Chinese and Uyghur languages, her videos on the YouTube channel are wonderful resources.
In conclusion, the US really needs to fix its foreign policy, which is now based on chaos, confrontation, proxy wars, Machiavellian divide-and-conquer strategies, lies, hypocrisy, disinformation, and endless propaganda. The US needs a positive approach that’s based on cooperation, friendly competition and ethical policies.
Related blog posts:
Uyghur-Xinjiang Issue Explained in Four Minutes (Quick summary for those who hate long articles)