Chinese state propaganda machine Global Times on Monday railed against Western accusations that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has organized a genocide against the majority-Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang autonomous region.
In response to global outrage over China’s construction of hundreds of concentration camps for Uyghurs, the systematic enslavement of Muslim minorities, and the celebration of forced sterilization and abortion, China asserted the United States is guilty of genocide.
Chinese authorities have reportedly established over 1,000 forced labor camps in Xinjiang and coerced up to 3 million local Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and others into them, ostensibly for “vocational training” purposes. According to the Communist Party, these facilities aim to prepare Uyghurs for modern work in the rapidly developing Chinese economy. Survivors of these camps, however, have described the CCP’s use of torture and indoctrination to cow the Uyghurs into submission. Uyghurs face tremendous pressure to abandon their Muslim faith and to adopt the officially atheist Chinese state’s de facto religion: worship of the CCP and its leader, Xi Jinping. They have further testified to rape, forced sterilization, abortion, and infanticide.
Apart from the Uyghurs, China is home to a number of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities such as ethnic Mongolians in northern China, Tibetan Buddhists, and the tens of millions of Christians spread across the country. The CCP rigorously persecutes these groups with the aim of coercing their integration with the majority population of Mandarin-speaking “Han” Chinese. In Mongolia, for example, the state implemented reforms in 2020 to the Mongolian education program to advance Mandarin as a primary educational medium, prompting fears the CCP wanted to erase the Mongolian language and triggering mass protests, which in turn prompted mass arrests.
The Times’ screed singled out U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — an “anti-China hardliner” — for a recent legislative effort to officially brand Chinese activity in the region as “genocide.” Rubio and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sponsored a sanctions bill last year condemning the treatment of the Uyghurs and calling “for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.”
To counter the “lies and rumors” about the genocide of the Uyghurs, the Times pointed to a Monday press conference during which the Chinese Foreign Ministry organized a panel with communist officials, an imam, and a purported “graduate” of the labor camps during which all present fielded questions from journalists and consistently “debunked” all the heinous accusations. The Times did not acknowledge that, should the rumors of genocidal camps prove true, one could hardly expect the “graduate” to break with the totalitarian state’s narrative on the subject openly and in front of the press.
In the same conference, Xu Guixiang, a local CCP official, discussed Xinjiang’s demographic trends over the past decade, arguing that the population growth of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including the Uyghurs — which grew in number at a faster rate than the “Han” Chinese group — debunked any notion of genocide. Xu’s data allegedly showed that the total ethnic minority population in Xinjiang rose from 12.99 million to 15.86 million from 2010 to 2018. Moreover, the Uyghur population specifically rose from 10.17 million to 12.72 million in the same period. Conspicuously, Xu’s supposedly exonerating data ends with 2018, the year in which reports of the Uyghur forced labor camps first began to surface.
Taking a different approach, the Times resorted to attacking the United States for its own human rights record, insisting that the decline in the Native American population from 5 million to 250,000 from 1492 to 1900 meant the U.S. was “driving the American Indians to the edge of extinction.” The Times made no effort to source its population figures, and the number of Native Americans in the continental United States in 1492 is the subject of much debate, with estimates ranging from 900,000 to 18 million. The Times further ignored that the population of Native Americans currently stands at 5.2 million, according to the 2010 census.
Apart from discounting disease and other factors driving demographic changes in the U.S., the United States did not exist for most of the time period the Times highlighted, beginning with Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the Western Hemisphere in 1492. The first permanent settlements by Europeans on the mainland United States came in 1565 and 1607, when the Spanish and English founded St. Augustine and Jamestown, respectively. The United States formally entered existence in 1776.
Xu also addressed racial issues in the United States, saying the George Floyd protests “exposed that systematic and long-standing racial problems in the U.S. have made people unable to breathe,” according to the Times.
Xu’s and the Times’ retaliatory accusations of human rights abuses in the Western world are emblematic of the CCP’s wider adoption of the rhetorical tactic to deflect criticism of its own abuses. China, which last year earned a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, demanded in November that the United States do more to fight “systematic racism, racial discrimination, white supremacy, religious intolerance, and xenophobia” ahead of the U.N.’s periodic review of the nation’s human rights record.