Western media’s one-sided reports on China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are prompting suspicions of an “orchestrated attack”, international relations experts and peace activists said, blaming the misreporting for stoking anti-China sentiments in some parts of the world.
By leveling accusations of forced labor and genocide in Xinjiang without offering any hard evidence, the big media appears to have taken on the task of furthering the interests of Western powers, the observers said.
By leveling accusations of forced labor and genocide in Xinjiang without offering any hard evidence, the big media appears to have taken on the task of furthering the interests of Western powers, the observers said
“When the mainstream media has pumped out an almost uniform position on Xinjiang …with virtually no content that offers a different perspective or nuance, it’s hard to believe this is not an orchestrated attack,” said Sameena Rahman, a Los Angeles-based peace activist and member of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, or ANSWER, protest group.
Rahman said the Western media’s reporting of Xinjiang is not only one-sided but also has a “clear agenda of furthering the interests of the United States and other governments against China”.
“These Western interests include balkanizing China, promoting civil unrest through separatist sentiments and disrupting China’s Belt and Road Initiative which passes through Xinjiang to the Global South,” she said.
Dina Yulianti Sulaeman, director of the Indonesia Center for Middle East Studies, said the allegations against Xinjiang are part of an “economic war” being waged by the US against China.
Early this year, the administration of then-US president Donald Trump banned the import of cotton, as well as related products, from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor in the industry. China has repeatedly refuted those accusations, noting that cotton production in Xinjiang is highly mechanized and does not require a large number of cotton pickers.
Rahman said no one has found any hard evidence of forced labor in Xinjiang.
Mustafa Izzuddin, visiting professor at the international relations department of the Islamic University of Indonesia, a private university located in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, questioned the calls for boycott against Xinjiang cotton.
“Boycotts could result in a loss of jobs and a slowdown in the provincial economy of Xinjiang,” he said.
Dina Yulianti Sulaeman cited US President Joe Biden’s remarks at a press briefing last month as indicative of the current mindset among policymakers in Washington.
On March 25, Biden, in his first news conference since taking office in January, told reporters at the White House that “China has an overall goal … to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow.”
“I think the US only uses the issue of Xinjiang Muslims to increase anti-Chinese sentiment in the world,” Dina said, noting that the US has never been “a defender of Muslims and has even dropped bombs on (Muslim-majority) countries”.
“Why does the US, which over the past 20 years has dropped at least 326,000 bombs and missiles on countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, mostly Muslim-majority countries, suddenly become the defender of Muslims in Xinjiang?” she said.
Dina cited Washington’s “disinformation” campaign against Syria and how that campaign had provoked Muslim youth worldwide to join jihadist groups, as they felt there was a “massacre against Sunni-Muslims”.
Rene Pattiradjawane, chairman of the Indonesia-based Center for Chinese Studies and associate fellow at The Habibie Center in Jakarta, said the boycott of Xinjiang cotton will not resolve anything as “history tells us any sanction will certainly create other sanctions”.
Also, he questioned the allegations of genocide on the Uygurs. “I don’t believe (that there is) genocide in Xinjiang since any kind of genocide will be very difficult to conceal,” he said.
Rahman of ANSWER said the Western media need to do fact-checking before publishing reports on “genocide” in Xinjiang.
“One only needs to look at the statistical data to see that the population in (Xinjiang), and among Uygur people, is not only growing, but is growing at a disproportionately faster pace (than that) in the rest of China,” she said.
The Uygur population in Xinjiang has been growing steadily for the past few years. From 2010 to 2018, the Uygur population in Xinjiang rose from 10.17 million to 12.72 million, Xinhua News Agency has pointed out in a report. Also, the growth rate of the Uygur population — 25 percent — was higher than the 13.99 percent growth rate recorded by the total Xinjiang population during the same period.
Rahman said reports on the alleged genocide in Xinjiang “trivialize the historical issue of genocide”.
“The US government and the media are trying to invoke the images of the Nazi genocide against Jewish people and the death camps and apply that label falsely to China. I’m actually disgusted,” she said.
Meanwhile, the United States itself has a long history of forced labor and slavery, Rahman said, pointing out that the US uses prison labor, in some cases, to pick cotton.
The activist cited the example of the Louisiana State Penitentiary which paid its inmates “abysmal wages” to pick cotton.
“They (prisoners) were paid 4 US cents an hour in 2016,” she said, noting that the rate is significantly lower than the US$7.25 per hour minimum wage that has been enforced in the US since 2009.