Believe it or not, history will prove that the current human rights diplomacy of the US government is heading to its Waterloo, as evidenced by its lack of due attention to the real issues to be solved, and weird obsession with lies of its politicians about Xinjiang which can only be supported by other lies. Its contradicting positions on the Palestine issue and on the Xinjiang issue may just be the two sides of the same coin.
When the hearts of the Bangladeshi people were with their Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine, and almost all major countries in the world were doing what they can to deescalate the situation and facilitate a ceasefire, there was only one country standing in the way of any meaningful action by the UN Security Council. Do you believe it is the same country that always claims to stand with “oppressed” Muslims around the world especially those in Xinjiang?Among all the attempts to profit from the Xinjiang issue, the most galling move has been the allegation of “genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang”, which was first made by the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, through his baseless statement of "I believe this genocide is ongoing" on his last day in office as part of the fag-end of Trump's administration. Misguided by this, things are hyped to policy-making level in some other Western countries as well. For example, despite that the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained, Canada's House of Commons voted to declare China's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. The Dutch and Belgium parliaments also passed relevant non-binding motions, symbolizing that “fake news” has started to worsen into “fake laws”. And the latest show was put up by the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called for a "diplomatic boycott" of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
What is a bit comforting is that we are hearing more and more unbiased voices about Xinjiang, many from the West. These efforts make it possible to let more people get to the bottom of what's going on and reveal the ins and outs of the lies about Xinjiang. They also offer new opportunities to China to demonstrate its achievements made in Xinjiang and beyond to the world.
The Xinjiang Genocide Determination as Agenda
The Xinjiang “genocide” accusation originated from a report called The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China's Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention, co-produced by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a US think tank, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a Canadian NGO. In April 2021, Thore Vestby, former Mayor of Norway's Frogn municipality, released a paper in collaboration with Dutch and Danish scholars, laying bare the lack of objectivity, verity, and integrity of the Newlines-Wallenberg Report.
Vestby's paper pointed out that the report and the two institutions behind it are not “independent” but deeply influenced by religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism. The report is the product of cooperation among individuals from at least six more-or-less interconnected interest groups, or milieus, namely: Christian fundamentalists, conservative U.S. foreign policy hawks, Muslim Brotherhood, extreme anti-Communism activists, pro-Israel lobbyists, and the politicized human rights machinery by which human rights concerns tend to serve various types of interventions by the US. Vestby noted that a wide range of mainstream Western media immediately covered the so-called “first independent scholarly documentation” after it was released without even the basic verification of its content, showing that the arms industry-media-think tank interest consortium in the US is so strong that some academic institutions have been completely reduced to its accomplices.
Vestby's work also revealed that the report quotes a large number of falsified data and misinterpreted information, pieced together from significantly and systematically biased choices of sources. Some fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts, and facts are deliberately left out. What Vestby has found in the report makes one believe that if this is the highest-quality documentation of “genocide” in Xinjiang, one may seriously doubt whether other things that have been said on Xinjiang could be true. What's more, the report conveys propaganda in the specific sense of treating China as the subject of all evil without the understanding that China's policies somewhat reflect its external relations with other countries, including its confrontational relations with the US. By examining China as an isolated variable, the report cannot produce any comparative perspective. To put it crudely: if China had committed genocide in Xinjiang, should there have been other states/actors also determined as genocidal? Or, how do China's War on Terror inside Xinjiang and its human costs compare with the US-led Global War On Terror (GWOT) and its human costs?In his conclusion, Vestby said, Raphael Lemkin would turn in his grave if he learned that the crime of “genocide” has been so crassly instrumentalized to beat the drums of Sinophobia. The sudden flurry of the US's interest in the fate of the Uyghur people seems less motivated by compassion or the protection of human rights than lifted from the most cynical pages of the Machiavellian playbook of geopolitics.
The Xinjiang Genocide Allegations Are Unjustified
On April 20th, 2021, Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs at Columbia University, who served as an adviser to three UN Secretaries-General, and Professor William Schabas at Middlesex University, London, co-published an article which was released by Project Syndicate. The authors noted that the genocide charge was made by the then top diplomat of the US, who made no secret of his belief in lying as a tool of his country's foreign policy. Now President Joe Biden's administration has doubled down on this flimsy claim, even though the State Department's own top lawyers reportedly share scepticism regarding the charge. The article determined that unless substantial proofs are available, the US State Department should withdraw the charge.
The article also argues that the US government needlessly escalated its rhetoric against China by misusing the term “genocide”. Such a grave charge matters, as genocide, is rightly considered “the crime of crimes”, and the inappropriate use of the term may escalate geopolitical and military tensions and devalue the historical memory of genocides, thereby hindering the ability to prevent future genocides. It behooves the US government to make any charge of genocide responsibly, which it has failed to do.
Uyghurs: To Put an End to Fake News
On March 19th this year, French journalist and writer Maxime Vivas shared online a video of Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired US Army Colonel and former chief of staff to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, giving a speech in August 2018. Wilkerson said in the video: “If the CIA wanted to destabilize China, that would be the best way to do it—to form unrest and join with those Uyghurs in pushing the Han Chinese in Beijing from internal rather than external.”
This is not the first time Vivas has lifted the veil on the more “unwholesome” practices adopted by the U.S. from time to time. Vivas paid two visits to Xinjiang, in 2016 and 2018 respectively, stopping at farms, factories, schools, hospitals and mosques. He wrote down everything he saw in a new book Uyghurs: Putting an End to Fake News. “There is not an ounce of truth in the anti-China allegations involving the Uyghurs. Some journalists have never even been to Xinjiang and they readily pass on the lies to their readership,” he said in the book. Vivas also gives readers a year by year, to the dollar, an account of the financial amounts received by the so-called “Uyghur World Congress”, and he adds precisely what is requested of it in return. “My expectations are that China will demonstrate that it is in fact possible for a country to be both a great power as well as a patron of peace and friendship,” Vivas concluded.
Hypocrisy and geopolitics: A brief look at Uyghurs in China
In a recent op-ed headlined Hypocrisy and geopolitics: A brief look at Uyghurs in China, published last month by Estado de Minas, Brazilian scholar Sueli Vasconcelos, also a professor at Santa Marcelina College said that the West's well-orchestrated allegations of “forced labour” and “genocide” in Xinjiang are glaringly hypocritical and clearly aim to obscure an ulterior motive. “The accusers have a long record of human rights violations against Muslims and other peoples in various parts of the world,” she noted, wondering why “the Western world was practically silent” in the face of the torture and prisoner abuse scandal committed by the US armed forces in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. The United States used “torture and humiliation” against men, women, and even children, many of them innocent, after its invasion of the Middle East country, yet “the fact did not provoke so much condemnation”. This type of selective defence of human rights makes a mockery of real humanitarian concerns, she noted. At the end of the article, Vasconcelos said the smear campaign on Xinjiang is a reflection of Western hawks' anxiety about China's growth.
Another article by an education consultant with more than a decade-long experience of working and living in Xinjiang was published by Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao about Xinjiang cotton. The article points out that the allegation of “forced labour” in Xinjiang not only is absurd but also exposes the ignorance of those behind it. During the cotton-picking season, workers seeking temporary jobs from other parts of China would travel to Xinjiang to meet the shortfall of labourers and help the cotton-growers bring in the harvest. In return, the workers get generous remunerations, the author said. Besides, with the development and wide application of agricultural machinery, manual labour is being replaced at an increasing pace. So the false allegation of “forced cotton-picking by ethnic minorities” is nothing more than a wicked attempt of defilement.
China is not alone
Vladimir Norov, Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), who led a delegation of more than 30 diplomats from some 21 countries to Xinjiang from March 30th to April 2nd, shared his thoughts and experiences by saying that: “I am deeply impressed by the rapid development of Xinjiang. People of all ethnic groups live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy equal rights.” When he made it clear upon his return that in Xinjiang “there are no violations of human rights", much less religious discrimination or "racial genocide", I think he spoke for all.
Though encountered by many difficulties, Professor Murata Tadayoshi at Yokohama National University managed to publish his latest article, in which he makes a sound argument that the US government reveals its “human rights diplomacy” to be “intelligence lies” by turning a blind eye to the obvious fact of the yearly increasing Uyghur population in Xinjiang and hyping up the genocide charge. Mr. Rabi Sankar Bosu, an Indian analyst, and commentator, also believes that lies about Xinjiang by the US and its western allies will not succeed. Equally worth noting are the recent reports by the US news website thegrayzone.com and the Australian publication Australian Alert Service, which revealed the truth about the fraudulent Xinjiang-related "databases" and the so-called "witness testimonies" and, with abundant facts and figures, exposed the real mastermind behind them.
Very importantly, in many developing countries, especially in some countries of Islamic faith, objective and impartial reports on Xinjiang are gaining steam. Muslim leaders in Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Yemen decided to co-sign a joint statement in the recent session of the UN Human Right Council praising China's “response to threats of terrorism and extremism” and actions taken to “safeguard the human rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang”. When Western media are flooded with smears against Xinjiang, these objective and just voices are highly commendable.
An Accusation or a Gift?
The truth about Xinjiang is simple and clear: There is no such thing that China has ever engaged in human rights abuses against Uyghur or other Muslim minority groups. Quite the contrary, facts and figures prove that the Xinjiang region has become an example of all-around progress and development over the past seven decades under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is true that the US-led smearing campaign has damaged China's reputation to some extent, and even the economy as well since it also targeted some specific industries including the cotton and solar energy industries of Xinjiang. Yet, if thinking long-term and strategically, one could find that the US may have given China another geopolitical “gift”.
The US will eventually realize that one of the biggest strategic mistakes the Trump administration had ever made is to turn China from a trustworthy partner into an institutional rival, which is being inherited by the Biden administration with unfortunate naivety. While China had been fully prepared for a competitive-collaborative relationship with the US, it did not expect to see its opponent stooping down to so low as to resorting to hysterical lies and obsessive smearing to hold it back. On the other hand, it is admittingly coming to terms with the role of a make-believe “villain” against the powerful protagonist in this US-directed melodrama, whereas the US seems to be needing some more contemplation in the role it is playing. The crass and flimsy accusation of the Uyghur genocide is nothing but another example. If the US does not revert its course immediately, what is waiting ahead will only be the Waterloo of its human rights diplomacy, or even more.
The writer is a Chinese Ambassador