OPINION / VIEWPOINT
No need to make a fuss on Xinjiang’s population data
Published: Jun 22, 2021 09:06 AM
Children play in a lavender farm in Huocheng County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Children play in a lavender farm in Huocheng County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)


 
Why is Xinjiang population data a focus of attention?


Recently, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region released data on its population based on the seventh national population census. This data, however, has drawn the attention of some Western media and so-called “scholars,” and the reason is very simple – they want to get “evidence” from this data to back up the allegations of “genocide” they have been making against China.  

In fact, the statistics released by the Xinjiang region showed that the population of the Uygur ethnic group has increased by 1.623 million in the past decade, a rate of increase of 16.2 percent. 

It fully demonstrated there is no “genocide” in the region. However, despite these facts, a group of people are attempting to misinterpret the data, trying to piece up “evidence” that may support the “genocide” allegation. They have now come up with a new concept of “slow genocide.”

This move has made genocide – a very serious crime – sound entertaining. Genocide that can be proved to be genocide should still be called genocide, but “genocide” that can never be proven has now been called “slow genocide.” It sounds more like a typical set-up of public opinion with the purpose of forcibly imposing the crime of “genocide” on China.   

Those who invented the phrase “slow genocide” do not care about whether this crime can be “proven” or when on earth it could be “slowly proven.” They only care about how to play word games to legitimize the groundless allegation and to bind China’s Xinjiang tightly with the word “genocide” in rolling coverage by Western media. During this process, their occasional moves of creating more words that have no basis on logic or laws are only seen as “necessary” technical fixing. 

Why on earth can’t Han people move to Xinjiang?

Apart from the “genocide” allegation that a certain group of people want to cram into people’s minds, the data on Xinjiang’s population has attracted their attention for a deeper reason. After the malicious theory of a decrease in the Uygur population was proven wrong, another accusation that the Han population has increased in Xinjiang has surfaced.

This theory has been made under a narrative framework that says Uygur and Han people are on opposite sides and the Xinjiang region is not China’s Xinjiang but Uygurs’ Xinjiang. Only under this binary opposition narrative pattern can they distort the concept of natural population mobility into a negative one of “occupation.” As a region of China, Xinjiang has attracted people from other parts of the country now that terrorism in the region has been stamped out. What is wrong with this natural population mobility within China?      

Meanwhile, people may ask another question – is it “legitimate” for Uygurs to move to other parts of China from the Xinjiang region? People who subscribe to the binary opposition narrative pattern have already prepared their answer – they call this China’s evil strategy of trying to “assimilate” Uygurs. 

The above-mentioned people do not care that population mobility has brought development opportunities to Xinjiang, nor will they accept Uygur people’s willingness to move to other places for better development, since none of these fit their logic. According to their narrative, Xinjiang can only be a place where “no one should come or go.”

Why is it wrong to compare population data in a simplistic way?

Statistics, as a science, involves complicated methodology and formulas. The statistical results that the public has access to are mainly compiled from general and sampling surveys. General surveys need to be carried out to acquire every individual’s information to the greatest extent possible. A sampling survey is more like a calculation – it can be made based on having part of the information.

Carrying out the two kinds of surveys requires different numbers of people and resources to be mobilized and requires different lengths of time, and therefore the accuracy of the results cannot be compared. For statistical purposes, data acquired from the general survey and sampling survey are necessarily different. This is simple and clear common sense. 

After Xinjiang released its population data, some Western media and so-called experts seemed “encouraged,” and put the ridiculous “genocide” allegation into the data to get proof. In order to reach the predetermined conclusion, they even randomly selected different statistical data obtained from different methodologies to make comparisons – a move that is like firing the arrow and then drawing the target. 

A sentence used by Chinese netizens can be used to describe such behavior – they are either foolish or malicious. 

Zhang Nan is a research fellow from China Society for Human Rights Studies.

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