The Chinese Foreign Ministry and government-run newspapers in the country launched a campaign Thursday to discredit women who have testified to being raped and tortured in Communist Party-run concentration camps, referring to them as criminals and “actors.”
Beijing has repeatedly attempted to smear survivors of its elaborate concentration camp system in far-west Xinjiang province as actors who have made a living somehow out of accusing China of human rights atrocities, providing no evidence for those claims. The Communist Party has also spent years attempting to discredit Dr. Adrian Zenz, one of the top researchers working on compiling evidence of genocide against the Uyghur people and other majority-Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
The latest attacks on those accusing China followed a harrowing BBC exposé in which survivors of the concentration camp system said they were regularly subject to gang rape and tortured by being raped with electric batons, among other atrocities. Some of those sharing their experiences with the BBC included guards and prisoners forced to help the guards by disrobing and tying women up in torture chambers prior to their gang rape. Nearly all of those testifying said that a common characteristic of the concentration camps was that everyone inside could hear the screams of agony of those being tortured while they awaited their turn.
Prior to the publication of the BBC story on Wednesday, concentration camp survivors, including some who also spoke to the BBC, had accused China of using the concentration camps to enslave Uyghurs, force them into communist indoctrination to erase their culture and religion, forcibly sterilize women, and kill their infant children.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied all charges. Beijing has confirmed the existence of the concentration camps, but refers to them as “vocational training centers” where poor minority people learn job skills. The Chinese government has also boasted of liberating Uyghur women from being “baby-making machines” by forcibly sterilizing them.
On Friday, the Global Times, a state propaganda outlet, published a graph with the names of some of those speaking to the BBC on the record, referring to them as “actors playing victims from Xinjiang who frequently appear in Western media.”
“These victims of ‘camps’ in BBC reports cannot offer evidence for their claims. The Western media has a notorious record on factual accuracy in its reporting — for example, making traffic jams a sign of ‘oppression,'” The Global Times claimed, without elaborating on what the “traffic jams” comment was a reference to.
The newspaper accused the World Uyghur Congress, a human rights advocacy group dedicated to awareness of China’s genocidal policies against the Uyghur people, of recruiting “actors” in an attempt to overthrow the Chinese government.
“The separatist organizations usually choose females, as women and their tears would touch readers and arouse sympathy,” the propaganda outlet claimed. It accused the World Uyghur Congress of being “generally believed to seek the fall of China.”
The article then went on to name several of the women in the BBC report and claim that Chinese documentation did not show that those who claimed to be forcibly sterilized endured such an attack. It went on to claim that the BBC “provided almost no information to prove the authenticity” of the testimonies. Contrary to that claim, the BBC did indicate that some of its witnesses had documents, including travel documents, that indicated that those testifying were in the places they claimed to be when they experienced what they denounced. The anonymous concentration camp guard who spoke to the BBC, for example, “provided documents that appeared to corroborate a period of employment at a known camp,” according to the report.
The Global Times concluded by quoting alleged “netizens,” anonymous users of Chinese government-controlled social media, insulting the report.
“A netizen called ‘Phil C’ mocked the BBC and wrote that ‘BBC must be pretty poor & budget tight 4 NOT able to afford more expensive ‘supermodel’ to go into this fake dazzling headline!! [sic],” the Global Times relayed. “‘Damn! This face photo has been used multiple times practically for ALL functions.., battered wife, farmer, war victim, janitor, beggar, & now…'”
Similar to the Global Times‘ attempts to defend the Chinese concentration camps, the Foreign Ministry insisted Thursday that the Communist Party — responsible for the deaths of 45 million people during the Great Leap Forward alone — had a long history of respecting human rights. Spokesman Wang Wenbin urged reporters to watch a Chinese propaganda showcase called “Xinjiang Is a Wonderful Land” that allegedly discredited the BBC report.
“After the founding of the PRC [People’s Republic of China], we have achieved unprecedented progress in women’s liberation and development,” Wang alleged. “Women of all ethnic groups enjoy political rights, rights relating to culture and education, rights of labor and social security, rights relating to property, right of person, and rights relating to marriage and family.”
Wang also named several of those in the BBC story and claimed they were actors. Of one woman, Zumrat Dawut, he claimed that she was not forcibly sterilized by allegedly signed a “consent form” for a “tubal ligation.”
“This woman has become an actor and a tool for anti-China forces’ attacks on and hyping up of Xinjiang,” Wang said.
The Chinese government has previously accused concentration camps victims of “murder” and “rape,” claiming their complaints were not false because they were actors, but because they were fugitives. Beijing has provided no evidence for those claims.