Logic and Paradox on Xinjiang-Related Issues
By Ambassador Chen Li
27 May 2021
For some time, negative reports on China’s Xinjiang region have been constantly seen on Western media. For those who know little about Xinjiang, they have reason to be concerned about such sensational words as “genocide” and “forced labor”. What kind of place is Xinjiang? How are the Uyghurs living there? Is there any problem with Xinjiang’s cotton?
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is a province of China. With a population of more than 25 million, Xinjiang consists of dozens of ethnic minorities including Uyghurs. Over the past 6 decades, the average life expectancy there increased from 30 to 72 years. The population of Uyghurs more than doubled in 40 years or so. Between 2010 and 2018 alone, the Uyghur population increased by 25.04%. This figure is not only higher than that of the total population in Xinjiang, which stands at 13.99%, and is also almost 12 times higher than that of the Han population, which is 2.2%. Up to the year 2018, the Uyghur population reaches 12.72 million, taking up 51% of the whole in Xinjiang. There are more than 24,000 mosques in the region, one for every 530 Muslims; primary and secondary education is conducted in seven languages, and TV and radio programs broadcast in five minority languages.
In Xinjiang, cotton-picking is a highly-paid job. In the past during the cotton-picking season, this job is not only popular among local pickers of various ethnic groups, but also attractive to migrant rural workers from other provinces. They all sign labor contracts with planters voluntarily through consultation on an equal footing. Their earnings from cotton picking in one or two months might be higher than the whole year’s income. In recent years, mechanization of cotton production has been increasingly prevalent in Xinjiang. 70% of all cotton were harvested mechanically in 2020. This year, it is estimated that 88% of the overall cotton production there can be done by machines. Massive labor is no longer needed for cotton picking.
Xinjiang is open to the outside and received over 200 million visitors in 2019 and 158 million in 2020. Travelers have been seen all over the region. In recent years, more than 1,200 diplomats, journalists, international organization officials and religious personnel from over 100 countries have visited there. Many international companies also pay regular visit to their suppliers and production lines in Xinjiang. They can enter and depart from Xinjiang smoothly.
It’s hard to imagine how could “genocide” and “forced labor” associated with such a place where population grows steadily, society is safe and open, and people enjoy happy life. Where do the accusations come from? “Genocide” was claimed by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the very last day of his term. It was based on reports fabricated by some extremist anti-China individuals who haven’t been to Xinjiang for years and accounts of a few so-called witnesses who were proved to be trained “actors” and “actresses”. Some of them are associated with East Turkestan forces. Such accusations call into question the political purposes behind them. The allegations made by those individuals have been hyped up over and over again, as if lies repeated a thousand times can become truth. To trust those few, or to trust hundreds of millions who have actually been to Xinjiang? The answer is self-evident. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered a speech in 2018, saying that “the CIA would want to destabilize China and that would be the best way to do it to foment unrest and to join with those Uyghurs in pushing the Han Chinese in Beijing from internal places rather than external.” Those words made it explicit that their true intention is not to care for human rights but to play it as a card for political manipulation, so as to mess up Xinjiang and contain China. Such intention and behavior is in itself against human rights and is morally questionable.
Xinjiang was once a victim of terrorism and religious extremism witnessing thousands of violent terrorist cases, which posed a serious threat to people's life and security. Facing such situation, the Chinese government has resolutely cracked down on all forms of terrorism in accordance with the law and achieved positive results. The so-called “concentration camps” or “re-education camps” by some Western media are in fact vocational education and training centers set up in accordance with laws. They are all active steps to realize preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization goals by implementing the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and drawing on similar practices of other countries. With tremendous efforts, there has been no violent terrorist case for more than four years in a row in Xinjiang. People of all ethnic groups there cherish the hard-won peace and stability they enjoy. In recent years, Xinjiang’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 7.2%; the per capita disposable income of Xinjiang residents grew at an average rate of 9.1%. Over three million poor people have all been lifted out of poverty. These are the best indicators for Xinjiang’s human rights situation.
Recently, more and more people in the world have shown rational thinking and voiced objective and just views on Xinjiang-related issues. The US independent news website The Greyzone published an article exposing how the report, used by the US administration as the proof of “China committing genocide in Xinjiang”, was fabricated through data abuse, information distortion and false witness account. The French author Maxime Vivas wrote a book entitled “Uyghurs: To Put an End to Fake News” based on his two trips to Xinjiang, speaking positively of China’s Xinjiang policy. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post published an article describing China’s anti-terrorism efforts and laying bare the West’s double standards on this issue. People from academic and media in Australia, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, Japan and other countries express similar views and voices. During the latest UN Human Rights Council in March, over 80 countries, including Muslim countries, made joint or separate statements to express their solidarity with and support for China’s legitimate position in Xinjiang-related issues.
The lack of knowledge and rational thinking may lead to bias. Bias affects one’s judgment. Misjudgment may cause real harms. As a Chinese saying goes: listen to both sides and you will be enlightened; heed only one side and you will be benighted. It’s hoped that all people could listen more to the voices of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, to the voices of the Chinese people, and to objective and reasonable voices all over the world. We welcome people from various sectors in other countries to go and visit Xinjiang, but we oppose investigation based on presumption of guilt.