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Sticking with Facts

Apr 20, 2021
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

For the past few months, Western countries led by the United States are going further in stoking up the so-called Xinjiang issue. Smearing the development of Xinjiang has been surging intermittently since March this year.

On March 9, a report was released by a handful of people who virtually make a living out of anti-China statements and who have never set foot in Xinjiang. Their only “evidence” was fabricated by some anti-China individuals. The report even went so far as to cite the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and claimed that China practiced genocide in Xinjiang.

Western media such as CNN, the Guardian and the Canada Broadcasting Corporation picked up the story for extensive coverage.

The fact is, this so called “report” could not be further from the truth. Here are some examples to debunk it.

At some points in 70 years, China did adopt a birth control policy to suppress galloping population growth, but the Uygur minorities were never bound by the policy. As a matter of fact, the birth rate of the Uygur minorities far surpassed those of Han ethnicity.

In the past four decades, the Uygur population has grown from 5.55 million to 12 million — twofold growth. In the past six decades, the economic output of Xinjiang as a region expanded by a factor of 200, and average life expectancy has grown from 30 years to 72.

From 2010 to 2018, registered permanent residents of Xinjiang reached nearly 24.9 million, up from about 21.8 million, with Uygur minorities having grown by 2.55 million and the Han ethnicity population by 177,000. For any fair-minded person, does these figures sound like a “genocide” policy of any kind to you?   

On March 24, prompted by European politicians, the Swedish fashion brand H&M issued a statement and claimed that it would not use cotton or spun yarn products from Xinjiang because of so-called “forced labor” and “religious discrimination” against the Uygur minorities in Xinjiang. Later, footwear and apparel brands Adidas, Nike, Uniqlo and Muji also announced they would sever their association with Xinjiang cotton. Some commentators pointed out that these businesses must be under political influence behind the scenes. 

All of this smacks of a tactic by Western countries led by the U.S. to destabilize Xinjiang by making a fuss over cotton produced in Xinjiang. China is a major cotton manufacturer globally, with 85 percent of its production sourced in Xinjiang. Thus a key economic pillar for the region, partnering with downstream industries in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces that will sell the end products overseas. The calculus is to bring down the cotton industry in Xinjiang, causing job losses and livelihood problems, derailing the Xinjiang economy and provoking social unrest — a perfect storm for the Chinese government.

The so-called forced labor is an out-and-out lie. First and foremost, cotton planting and harvesting in Xinjiang is 90 percent mechanized, a fact that belies the forced-labor accusation. Surplus laborers from Xinjiang choose to seek jobs in the eastern provinces of China for higher income — and which provides new knowledge and skills that stand them in good stead if and when they return to their hometowns. Portraying such life choices as “forced labor makes a travesty of the hardworking people in Xinjiang.    

As for so-called religious discrimination, the charge is utterly baseless. According to official statistics, as of 2020 there were 24,400 mosques in Xinjiang — and the actual figure may be even higher. At 24,400 mosques, Xinjiang ranks second in the world, compared with 17,000 mosques in Egypt for about 43 million Muslims, 650 mosques in Tunis for 7 million Muslims and 5,400 mosques in Iran for 60 million Muslims. The U.S. is home to around 7 to 9 million Muslims, but the number of mosques is less than one-tenth that of Xinjiang’s. The number of mosques in Xinjiang is second only to Indonesia, which is home to about 2 million Muslims.

The sheer number of mosques in Xinjiang speaks volumes for the level of religious freedom enjoyed by the Uygurs in Xinjiang, and their religious activities are fully respected. 

It helps to take a cue from one comment and one episode to understand what Western politicians are doing to Xinjiang. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, United States Army colonel and former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, once said that a key reason the U.S. Army was stationed in Afghanistan that there were 12 million Uygurs living in Xinjiang. The best way to destabilize China is to use these Uygurs and work with them to create chaos from within to bring China down, rather than act from outside. Another incident is that the ambassadors of 22 countries (later 24 countries) co-signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights citing “concerns” over the human rights condition in Xinjiang and calling on China to close the vocational training centers in Xinjiang. On July 12, ambassadors to Geneva from 37 countries (later growing to 50) addressed a letter to the UN, hailing China’s achievement in promoting human rights and commending the training centers and other steps to prevent terrorism and radicalization for having made Xinjiang safer and protective of the basic rights of all ethnic groups. 

It is noteworthy that those 24 countries that take negative views of the Xinjiang case have a combined population of less than 6 million, and not one is a Muslim country. The 50 supportive countries have a combined population of 200 million, with 28 countries being members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Compared with the 24 Western countries, the latter group of 50 are naturally more genuinely aware of the reality on the ground, and their interpretation of the situation is more aligned with the truth and more credible.   

As coalition-building targeting China has become a set policy of the Biden administration, the creation of a coalition against China over Xinjiang will continue unabated. We need to stay alert. 

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