Chinese state media launched a media blitz Friday in anticipation of the ten-year anniversary of a string of police-led massacres in Urumqi, the capital of westernmost Xinjiang province, triggered by peaceful Uighur protests against the communist regime.
In its multiple responses to the incident posted Friday, the Chinese government, through its propaganda newspaper the Global Times, insisted that the well-documented establishment of concentration camps for Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang never happened; that the end result of the Urumqi killings was positive as Beijing responded to the incident by creating a sprawling surveillance state in Xinjiang; and that the Uighurs are a historically Chinese, and not Turkic people, contradicting even its own prior reporting.
China’s ethnic Uighur minority is native to Xinjiang and has no significant ties to the nation’s majority Han ethnicity. Uighurs are majority Muslim, speak a language closely connected to Turkish, and are universally accepted as members of the greater Turkic ethnic family. Many Uighurs refer to their homeland, including the Chinese established borders of Xinjiang, as “East Turkestan.” The name “Xinjiang” is Mandarin for “new frontier,” not the name that locals have traditionally used.
The Global Times accepted the reality of Uighur ethnic identity as recently as in 2015.
“In recent years, the governance measures Xinjiang has taken have brought a miraculous change to the region,” the Global Times declared in a piece published Friday. “This is the joint result of China’s institutional and national strengths. China can accomplish any task under the leadership of the Party, including the eradication of the influence of the ‘three evil forces’ in Xinjiang.”
The Communist Party refers to terrorism, extremism, and separatism as the “three evil forces.” It considers Uighur human rights advocacy groups “terrorists,” “separatists,” and “extremists.” Some Uighurs have expressed a preference for not being governed by the Communist Party, given its systematic oppression and attempts to erase Uighur identity through concentration camps, waves of Han migration into Xinjiang, and child education in Mandarin.
In another article addressing alleged falsehoods about Xinjiang, the Global Times declares that Xinjiang “has long been an inseparable part of the Chinese territory” and that Uighurs are not ethnically Turkic.
“According to the white paper released by the [Communist Party] State Council Information Office in March, ‘the Uyghur ethnic group came into being in the long process of migration and ethnic integration; they are not descendants of the Turks,'” the Global Times proclaimed. It also cited the Party-approved mayor of Urumqi, Yasheng Sidike, who allegedly said last year, “The Uyghur people are members of the Chinese family, not descendants of the Turks, let alone anything to do with Turkish people.” He went on to call anyone who acknowledges the ties between Uighurs and other Turkic people, not just the Turkish, “ridiculous, ignorant, and condemnable.”
In 2015, the Global Times published an article on migration out of Xinjiang to Turkey, explaining Uighurs’ attraction to Turkey with the two people’s “cultural and religious links.”
“The Turkish language is another reason why Turkey offers a greater sense of belonging to the Uyghurs than other Muslim countries such as Malaysia,” the same newspaper that on Friday denied that the Uighurs are a Turkic people asserted. “As they are both Turkic languages, Turkish and Uyghur share a high degree of mutual intelligibility.”
The same “fact-checking” Global Times article published Friday dismissed the abundant evidence that China is using concentration camps to corral Uighurs and other Muslims and torture and indoctrinate them into submission. China insists the camps are “vocational centers” where Uighurs susceptible to jihadist propaganda learn jobs kills that keep them out of prison.
“China’s Foreign Ministry and many senior officials have reiterated that Xinjiang has been making intensive counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts, including offering education and aid through vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law,” the Times claimed. “Trainees in the vocational training centers are people guilty of minor crimes and the centers aim to eradicate the influence of terrorism and extremism. The training aims to prevent them from falling victim to terrorism and extremism, and to nip terrorist activities in the bud.”
Multiple international investigations have collected solid proof of China using concentration camps to imprison Uighurs. Reuters revealed last year that satellite evidence showed the construction of about 1,200 of these centers throughout the western province. Families in Urumqi and other cities throughout Xinjiang protest that their relatives – many with high education levels and no known ties to jihadism – have disappeared, presumably into the camps. Survivors of the camps say they were subjected to extreme torture, including electroshock and sleep deprivation, and that camp inmates are forced to eat pork (as a sign of disrespect to Islam), learn Mandarin, and revere Communist Party leader Xi Jinping by memorizing songs of worship about Xi and the Party.
A study published this week by the Journal on Political Risk revealed that the Chinese communist regime does not refer to the camps as “vocational centers” in its internal documents, and instead identifies them as indoctrination centers.
The reason for the barrage of propaganda pieces on Uighurs is the anniversary of the killings in Urumqi a decade ago, triggered by Uighurs peacefully demanding answers after two Uighur workers were killed in clashes with Han Chinese in Shaoguan. The Chinese communist regime claims that the “riots” killed 197 people and injured 1,700, causing millions of dollars in property destruction.
The World Uyghur Congress, an advocacy group for the global Uighur population, estimates that “thousands” of Uighurs were killed or disappeared during the assault.
“On July 5-7, 2009, thousands of Uyghur protesters were killed, forcibly disappeared or injured in a brutal response from the Chinese government to peaceful protests from mostly Uyghur students in Urumqi in response to China’s policies in the region,” the Congress said in its statement observing the anniversary on Wednesday. “The massacre proved to be a major turning point direction in the strategy of the Chinese government towards East Turkistan [Xinjiang] to one of outright violence and oppression and a complete lack of tolerance or willingness to listen to the voices and concerns of the Uyghur people.”