The untold truth about Xinjiang

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/20 23:53:40

Western media refuse to report reality

Residents chat with neighbors about their daily life on February 15 in Yusitunke Ayikule village of Awati county in Aksu Prefecture in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

Editor's Note

Misleading headlines, groundless accusations, obscure interviewees, double standards are not hard to spot in many articles covering China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western media outlets. 

Recent months have seen an intensive outburst of such reports which have tainted China's anti-terrorism efforts in the region by adopting tactics including using words with a negative connotation, providing incomplete information and stirring readers' emotions. 

Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi researched Xinjiang reporting in the Western media and interviewed American YouTuber Nathan Rich, Kurbanjan Samat, a Uyghur photographer and director who shoots stories about people from Xinjiang, and Erkin Öncan, a Turkish journalist focused on Xinjiang reporting.  

Fabricating 'truth'

"For me, you haven't seen things like this since the 1930s," said Michael Kozak, head of the US State Department's human rights and democracy bureau, at a news briefing on March 13 about China's treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. 

"Rounding up, in some estimations... in the millions of people, putting them into camps, and torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion and so on from their DNA. It's just remarkably awful," Kozak said, according to a Reuters report. 

The use of the pejorative word "camp" for a "vocational education and training center" was not only evident in Kozak's speech, but is also frequently used in Western media reports. 

"The use of the word 'camp' or 'concentration camp' has a negative connotation in English, which directly invokes imagery of Nazis and Nazism," said Nathan Rich, a US citizen who is also a technical executive at a Beijing-based company.

Rich gained fame in China last month when he released a video slamming a report by the New York Times about China's medical system.  

The video has garnered tens of millions of views on social media platforms. 

For Rich, himself a Jew, drawing parallels between Nazism and the Chinese government is "totally insane." 

"It's very strange - it's just an overt attempt to use suggestive propaganda," Rich said.

"Nazis murdered Jews who had done nothing wrong, but in Xinjiang, the regional government only tries to limit the actions of those who have committed crimes or are suspected of terrorism," he said.

Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said on the sidelines of this year's two sessions in Beijing that Xinjiang is a victim of terrorism and extremism and the vocational education and training centers aim to fundamentally eliminate the environment for terrorism and extremism. 

"It is not targeting specific ethnic groups or specific religions. Instead, it is targeting the three forces of violent terrorist crimes, extremism and separatism," he said.

Besides deliberately choosing negative words, some Western media reports just simply resorted to lies. 

On January 21, CNN issued a report in which it interviewed Mihrigul Tursun, who alleged her son had died at Urumqi children's hospital in Xinjiang in 2015. "I will tell them everything," Tursun said in the CNN report. "I will tell them the Chinese government killed their brother."

Tursun also claimed that she witnessed the death of nine Uyghur women when she was detained in Urumqi's prison. 

This report was slammed by Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, who provided concrete evidence. 

Hua said that Tursun's son was sent to Urumqi children's hospital in January, May and November 2016 with pneumonia, hydrocephalus and other illnesses. 

The official record showed Tursun and her husband took the child out of China in April 2018.

According to Hua, on April 21, 2017, Mihrigul was taken into custody by the public security bureau of Qiemo county on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination. She was released 20 days later after being found to have infectious disease out of humanitarian consideration.

Mihrigul had never been detained by police in Urumqi, neither had she been jailed or put into any vocational education and training center, Hua said.  

While Western news agencies extensively rely on sources from websites and social accounts run by East Turkestan terrorists, Kurbanjan Samat, a Uyghur photographer and documentary director, told the Global Times that the authenticity of these materials was questionable. 

Kurbanjan has seen how his works were "transformed" by East Turkestan terrorists with fake captions added to fool the public. 

Kurbanjan once shot a series of photos about a small village in Xinjiang's Hotan in 2006 and 2007. The village is off the beaten path even for locals in Hotan due to inconvenient transportation. "I simply recorded the life and culture of the local people back then. The village later had a good development," he said. 

To his surprise, he later found out that some of his photos were deliberately chosen by East Turkestan terrorists and were used in their accounts with texts such as "how miserably people in Xinjiang live under the governance of the Chinese government."

This was "a complete distortion of facts," he said. 

Erkin Öncan, a Turkish journalist, told the Global Times many Western news agencies' reports about Xinjiang are based on the allegations of NGOs that are run by East Turkestan terrorists and funded by the West. 

Öncan has focused on Xinjiang for many years and he also traces jihadist movements in Turkey, Syria and Afghanistan.

Public data showed that the Uyghur Human Rights Project and World Uygur Congress, citing sources in Western reports, receive funds from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NED is also known as a "shadow CIA."

"I realized the Western media's provocative and misleading attitude when I started to compare the news about Xinjiang. I saw their reports about the region were written with no source and based on unreliable things," Öncan said. 

What these Western media outlets are doing isn't caring about Muslims' life in China, but "a political agenda of the Western countries against China," he added. 

Double standards

Rich said many Western media framed reports in a sensational way to mislead readers. 

He provided examples, such as "sweeping campaign to detain and indoctrinate Muslims," and "China's Xinjiang experience demonstrates the peril of large-scale anti-Muslim policies" in Western media.

Rich said this totally "doesn't make sense." In cities including Beijing and Xi'an where he has been, Muslims live a peaceful life.

Also, as he pointed out, the Chinese government's governance in Xinjiang has never been about hatred toward Muslims and what the government is trying to do is to stamp out terrorism in the region.

According to Rich, the malicious accusations against China's anti-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang reflect double standards, given that the US has led the war on terrorism for many years. 

Following the September 11 attacks, the US has led a war on terrorism in Afghanistan and other nations, striking and bombing them, which continues to cause a significant number of civilian deaths, Rich said.

"To wage a war on terrorism which is not in your country is different from waging a war on terror in your country. If Americans woke up tomorrow and found that, for example, Libya had just suddenly appeared in the middle of Texas, what would be the solution to the inevitable terrorism that would happen?"

The best way, he said, might be to declare "martial law," limit certain people's travel and investigate where this terrorism comes from. 

Kurbanjan pointed out that the biggest "double standards" in the Western media's Xinjiang coverage is that they only reported the so-called "results," but they failed to tap into the underlying reasons, background and process.

Kurbanjan cites his own experience in Hotan as an example. 

Hotan was once plagued with separatism and extremist ideology, where all women were required to wear back clothes, headscarves and face veils. 

But his mother didn't want to wear the veil to cover her face. His sister was also unwilling to wear a headscarf and insisted on going to school. 

"Because of this, my family was isolated and scolded by other people. We had to live an almost isolated life for 20 years. But the Western media won't tell you this," he said.

Selective reporting materials are also reflected in Mihrigul Tursun's case. Most Western media turned a blind eye to China's evidence.

Rich told the Global Times that "If you try to understand China's actions while assuming they are 'anti-Muslim,' as portrayed by some Western media, many things don't add up. It doesn't make sense."

Due to anti-terrorism efforts in the region, the local economy is on the rise in the past few years and more women are freed from domestic violence and free to control their own life. 

Even in the photo coverage, many Western media tend to shoot police and police cars on Xinjiang streets to reflect their angle of suppression and strict supervision.

But what they do not mention is that these are security measures taken after a serious of terrorist tragedies and they help ensure a peaceful environment. 

The Western media also like to photograph pedestrians with their heads down to create a depressing atmosphere. 

But in fact, on the streets and in the squares of Xinjiang, relaxed and light-hearted citizens are everywhere but unable to enter the lens of Western media. 

"With using fancy language, with police or Muslim photos, they are trying to create an image," said Öncan.

Discourse hegemony 

Another notable characteristic of the Western media's Xinjiang reports is their discourse hegemony. 

They place themselves at the commanding heights of "human rights" and do not allow doubts or critical voices to exist. 

In a previous interview with the Global Times, many foreigners told reporters that they did not dare to make any positive comments on China's governance in Xinjiang, as it would quickly incur suspicions and even attacks.

Öncan said he tried to argue with Western journalists about their biased reports.

But when he brought this up with Western journalists, he only got the same answers all the time. 

"In every stage of China's governance, they claim China as an 'oppressive' country, but this allegation is their main excuse for fabricating false news. With doing this, they thought that they can write whatever they want, and when the proof has been asked for, they answer 'We don't have it. Because as an oppressive country, China has closed itself to the outside world for searching into the allegations,'" he said. 

But China has already invited politicians and journalists from other countries to the region, Öncan said. 

The regional government has organized tours for diplomats and media delegates from other countries to visit Xinjiang. 

Some journalists have published articles which credited the regional government's work but these words weren't seen in the Western media.

For defending China's policy in Xinjiang, Öncan is threatened by East Turkestan terrorists and other people holding different opinions in Turkey. 

"When they couldn't answer the facts about Xinjiang, they choose to accuse me of 'being a spy' and try to discredit me. They even claimed that my name was also given by Chinese authorities, because Erkin is also a Uyghur name. They are also trying to link my journalism activities with an intelligence agency," he said.

Öncan said he has received threats like "Wherever he appears, his head should be separated from his body." 

Kurbanjan also revealed to the Global Times that when he was working overseas he was tracked and his personal safety was threatened by people who disagree with his Xinjiang views.

One time in the US as he finished talking to his interviewee from Xinjiang three young men carrying baseball bats approached, threatening to beat him.

Öncan told the Global Times that he doesn't worry about his personal safety. 

"Because I know that the truth always wins," he said.


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