Documentaries seek to make foreigners rethink Xinjiang
Most mainstream foreign media ignore facts due to deep biases: Chinese expert
Published: Dec 29, 2019 10:50 PM

Uyghur women wave the Chinese national flag in Baicheng county of Xinjiang. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The China Central Television (CCTV) website reported on Saturday that two documentaries produced by China Global Television Network (CGTN) about China's counter-terrorism and de-extremism efforts in Xinjiang as well as the facts of terrorism that threatened the safety of the region have brought about some rethinking on Japanese social media networks. 

But in general, mainstream international media outlets were still ignoring the documentaries, which Chinese analysts said reflected ideological biases against China and the Communist Party of China (CPC) among foreign media and journalists.

It is almost impossible to let them view China's affairs with absolute neutrality, but as long as they laid down biases to see and learn, they will find the information and stances received every day from Western media are one-sided, Chinese experts said.

A Japanese news website on Chinese affairs,, broadcast the CGTN documentaries on December 18-19. 

The films show terrorism and religious extremism hurting the region and expose heinous crimes by the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" (ETIM).

Many Japanese web users commented on the website and its Facebook account including retired senior journalists. 

Hiroyuki Yamaki, former chief editor of Jiji Press, a Japanese news agency, commented on Facebook in Japanese that "We don't know too much about what's happening in Xinjiang. A lot of overseas media repots were based on US information that merely accused the Chinese government of religious oppression and ethnic cleansing against Uyghur people in the region."

In the program, he said, the reality of the horrific terrorism "was shocking and makes me shiver"… including "suicide bomb attacks, brainwashing of children and using swords to brutally kill innocent people." 

Yamaki further said that the US was actually applying a "double standard" to criticize China on Xinjiang affairs. He noted that after 9/11, US military forces launched a retaliation against Afghanistan immediately but during the war, many innocent people were killed and injured because of US airstrikes even as the US always said it was targeting terrorists. 

"Many [foreign] journalists have written a speculative article without going to Xinjiang. I'm hoping to see what's actually happening there," Yamaki posted.

Lack of neutrality 

Not only Yamaki but other foreign web users also said they should be more open-minded. 

Web user fakiho tweeted the CGTN documentary link with the comment: "You can have a look at the Chinese state-sponsored documentary. Even though you'll probably dismiss it as propaganda, it's good to see things from a different perspective."

Mira Nin posted on Facebook in Japanese that many first-hand "truly shocking" reports and videos could be seen for the first time in Japan.

"Japanese people can only see US media information," Mira Nin posted. "I think most Japanese media outlets and those journalists who are always shouting 'human rights' might have never been to Xinjiang."

No mainstream Japanese media broadcast the documentaries or reported on them. Most Western media outlets kept silent.  

Lü Yaodong, director of the institute of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said Japan has some journalists with strong neutrality while reporting news, and they refused to be manipulated by ideological elements. Unfortunately they were not the mainstream yet, he said.

A head of a Hong Kong-based university who didn't give his full name told the Global Times that he found some Japanese journalists act very differently compared to the South Korean ones while reporting the months-long Hong Kong turmoil, while Japanese journalists will go into the universities and talk to different people, but South Korean ones will just stay outside and interview with only the anti-government activists to encourage and justify violent incidents. 

Nearly 10,000 residents dance in local Dolan Maxrap folk style in Awat county in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Oct 9, 2018.Photo:China News Service

Ideological bias

In fact, the attitude of Chinese government for foreigners to visit Xinjiang has always been open and welcome. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang showed a kind and open-minded attitude rather than harsh criticism toward Turkish-German football player Mesut Ozil after he condemned China's Xinjiang policy and appeared to enrage Chinese internet users earlier this month.

"We welcome Ozil to travel around Xinjiang and have a look," Geng said.

Chinese experts insist that while China shows this open-minded attitude to the outside world on sensitive domestic issues and releases documentaries to introduce unknown facts, most foreign mainstream media outlets are choosing to ignore them out of a long-lasting and deep ideological bias against China.

"Before releasing the two documentaries, we thought those foreign journalists who were really interested in Xinjiang would ask many questions with a high degree of curiosity or challenge the facts in the documentary, but in fact they just ignored the documentaries and kept silent," said a Beijing-based observer on Xinjiang who participated in the production and who requested anonymity.

He said this proved many foreign journalists "did not really care about Xinjiang and many of them can't even point out where Xinjiang is on the map and their reports and comments about Xinjiang are based on their political correctness rather than the real focus of human rights."

The Chinese government had organized foreign media delegations to Xinjiang, the above-mentioned observer noted, but it "was still very hard to ensure they report the news neutrally because many of them are trying to create something from nowhere in Xinjiang to serve their preconceived stance, rather than see and listen to what the majority of Xinjiang people said."   

To change the long-lasting bias was not easy, Lü said. But as long as Chinese media produced and reported the facts and released first-hand information, there would be some foreign journalists and observers who laid down their bias and carefully learned the facts from different perspectives.

"At least, the broadcast of CGTN documentaries on a Japanese news portal website was an obvious change, so Chinese media should keep making efforts," Lü said.

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