A section of the expressway linking Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province and Horgos in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region winds through the Tianshan Mountains (XINHUA)
Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the word "genocide" and initiated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the first human rights treaty adopted by the UN to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities of World War II, would turn in his grave to see "genocide" being bandied around so crassly to drum up Sinophobia.
Any misuse of the word "genocide" is an insult to the victims of atrocities like the Armenian massacres during World War I, the Holocaust during World War II, and the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The U.S. use of "genocide" to describe the life of the Uygur people in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China seems less motivated by compassion or concern for the protection of human rights than geopolitics.
Xinjiang has been the victim of lies, false rumors and poison spewed by a few politicians in the U.S. over the years, the so-called Xinjiang issue being a strategic conspiracy to disrupt China from within and contain it. Washington is alarmed by China's potential to outcompete the U.S. and its true intention is to undermine China's security and stability and stop it from growing stronger.
Right after the Cold War ended, the U.S. started to use Xinjiang as a leverage to contain China by supporting separatist and terrorist forces. The neoconservative forces in the U.S. pivoted from the Soviet Union to try to contain China's influence in Central Asia. U.S. intelligence agencies supported Pan-Turkism, which seeks to unify all Turkic people and create a "Turkic belt" from the Mediterranean to Xinjiang. The U.S. agenda was to weaken Russia and China and maintain a unipolar world.
A number of anti-China institutions and extremist groups emerged over the years, including the separatist "World Uygur Congress" and the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" (ETIM), a UN-listed terror group, seeking the creation of an "East Turkistan" state or "independence" of Xinjiang.
Since 2004, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private organization funded largely by the U.S. Congress, has funneled $8.76 million to Uygur diaspora groups campaigning against government policies in Xinjiang. These have caused the rapid spread of radical ideas in the region with terrorists entering from other countries and terrorist organizations attacking Chinese nationals. Between 1997 and 2014, the ETIM frequently carried out terrorist attacks, killing more than 1,000 civilians.
In 2003, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggested that the U.S. Government should retain the option of using the "Uygur card" as a means of exerting pressure on China in case it found itself in a crisis or confrontation with China. Under this strategy, the U.S. and its allies, showing a Cold War mentality, have directed their intelligence establishments and anti-China scholars to mobilize Uygur diaspora groups to spin out misinformation about the so-called severe oppression of Uygurs in Xinjiang, which is then spread by the mainstream Western media. Some of them have been colluding with anti-China forces to pursue rumor-mongering and a smearing campaign against China with several objectives.
First, to create a false impression that Uygurs in Xinjiang support "independence." This is done by instigating certain groups to carry out separatist activities to make the public believe that all the people in Xinjiang want an independent state.
Second, to create the illusion that the ETIM is for peace. The Western media and others say nothing about such groups' close ties with Al Qaeda, and their violent and terrorist rhetoric. In November 2020, then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even removed the ETIM from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Third, to falsely claim human rights violations in Xinjiang. Some organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have fabricated reports on Xinjiang, their sources being a small group of extremely anti-China overseas Uygurs. The baseless accounts in these organizations' reports were further hyped up and spread by institutions such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
In a video interview in 2015, Sibel Edmonds, a former interpreter with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, talked about how the U.S. had planned and acted to destabilize Xinjiang. She said, "Xinjiang is the entry artery of energy. We want to gradually and internally play the gender card and the race card. For that part of the world, we want to play the minority without land. We say we are going to help them and they are being oppressed. Chinese are gunning them down and torturing them."
She also said, "We hope Xinjiang to be the next Taiwan. As Western nations, we never cared about people. That is not within our interest area, unless it can be utilized, capitalized upon to get our objective."
Edmonds' confession and the United States' real intention were reaffirmed by Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former chief of staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Speaking at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity in the U.S. in August 2018, he talked about the threefold purpose of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, which borders China's Xinjiang, one of which was to contain China.
He said, "The third reason we were there in Afghanistan is because there are 20 million Uygurs in Xinjiang. 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 Uygurs in pushing the Han Chinese in Beijing from internal places rather than external."
There are only a few countries where the U.S. has not interfered or instigated "color revolutions," resulting in political turmoil and regime subversion. The relation between the CIA and NED in the illegal "Occupy Central" movement in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2014 was revealed by BBC's Newsnight program.
Once again in 2019, during the disturbance over proposed legislative amendments in Hong Kong, the CIA worked hand in glove with NED to sponsor, instigate and even command anti-China, destabilizing forces to launch vandalizing, looting and arson attacks, and storm the Legislative Council building in the name of fighting for democracy and freedom in an attempt to spark a "color revolution" in Hong Kong.
Now the same thing is happening in Xinjiang with the CIA and some Western academics and media playing a role in this show plotted and staged by the U.S.
A sower at work in a cotton field in Yuli County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on April 13 (XINHUA)
Genocide and lies
Crimes against humanity and genocide are well-defined terms in international law. The most respected international tribunals agree that the proof of genocide requires an extremely convincing presentation of factual evidence, including documentation of the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
The allegation that China is committing "genocide" in Xinjiang is unsupported by any evidence. It is not something that can be decided by a vote in any legislature, which will certainly be subject to political manipulation. It is something to be decided by thorough investigation and by international bodies and courts.
But no such investigation or decision exists for the very good reason that any objective study would rapidly conclude that the claim of "genocide" of Uygurs in Xinjiang is farcical.
Instead, this is the real situation: The life expectancy of Xinjiang residents grew from 30 to 72 years over the past six decades or so. The Uygur population increased by 25.04 percent from 2010 to 2018, higher than the increase of the whole Xinjiang population, which stood at 13.99 percent, and much higher than the growth rate of the Han population, which was 2 percent.
Why has the Uygur population grown more rapidly than the majority Han population? Because under China's family planning policy, which was modified a few years ago to allow all couples to have two children, the Hans were generally permitted to have one child, but the ethnic minorities, including Uygurs, were allowed two.
It is absurd to claim "genocide" in the face of such a policy. Which Nazi Germany law permitted the Jews to have more children than non-Jewish Germans?
Take the claim that there are 1 million Uygurs in "concentration camps" in Xinjiang. If that were true, there would be a mass of satellite photos and the U.S. would be displaying them all the time. The only explanation is that there are no such photos because the so-called camps don't exist.
If there were really 1 million people in the "concentration camps," it would be almost one in 10 Uygurs. There would be literally millions and millions of Uygur families with relatives in these "concentration camps." So there would be an enormous number of witnesses, not just a handful who claim to have evidence of this and who are feted in the U.S. and in some cases, paid, and who have also been shown to be giving contradictory statements.
Even the U.S. Foreign Policy magazine, a frantic pursuer of the Cold War against China, had to admit that "no evidence has emerged of mass killing." As every real genocide has involved mass killings, this destroys the argument that "genocide" is being perpetrated against Uygurs in Xinjiang.
A dance teacher encourages a kid during his class in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on April 18 (XINHUA)
Not out of care
The U.S. has crafted the so-called Xinjiang issue not because it cares for the Uygurs, who are mostly Muslims. Then why did it attack Muslim countries under the pretext of counter-terrorism action following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, leading to deaths and family separations of millions of Muslims? And why did it put in place, even though it was temporary, the one and only Muslim travel ban in the world? Why are ethnic minorities discriminated against and persecuted in the U.S.?
The U.S. killed more Muslims than any other country in the world. The wars it waged and the military operations it carried out in the name of counter-terrorism in 80-plus countries led to more than 800,000 deaths and displaced millions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
In 2017, then U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Muslim travel ban, which aroused opposition from the international community. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2017, 75 percent of the adult Muslims surveyed said there was a great deal of discrimination against Muslims in U.S. society, and 69 percent of the general public held the same view. Also, 50 percent of American Muslims believed it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. in recent years.
The U.S. ought to pay real attention to religious discrimination on its own soil and stop politicizing religious issues. No rumor or slander can negate the fact that freedom of religious belief is guaranteed in Xinjiang. BR
The author is an op-ed contributor to Beijing Review and an expert on international studies
(Print Edition Title: A Victim of Lies and Poison)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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