US State department lawyers have concluded there’s no evidence to prove genocide in Xinjiang. The UK Parliament have decided it’s a job for the lawyers not the government. The International Criminal Court has declared more evidence is needed. So, what is it that causes so many people in so many countries to conclude genocide is going on while so many of the legal teams haven’t reached the same conclusion? It’s all related to the body of evidence and how much of it is admissible and provable?
The body of evidence seems overwhelming. Claims by journalists of as many as 800,000 people in camps. An Australian think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) have found 380 sites that they’ve assessed as being camps. “Leaked data” from Chinese government documents show purchases of massive amounts of security and military equipment. Other government documents instruct local education departments to focus on Chinese language and people are moved from place to place to work. The same source of “leaked” documents, Adrian Zenz, tells us: tens of thousands of beds and hundreds of kilometres of wire fencing were ordered, then satellite images analysed by ASPI’s Nathan Ruser show us where those beds and fencing were placed — into huge new institutions. Military and police staff have been moved into the area and construction contracts for re-education centres were given out over the last few years. Witnesses have come forward and given testimony that they’ve been in the camps and were tortured. All these “facts” are being funneled into one conclusion: China is moving hundreds of thousands of people into a system of work camps and prisons in an effort to eradicate the people, their language, religion and culture.
Except that the conclusion is wrong and the world is in a dilemma about what to believe.
Politicians considering the information would be crazy to go against it, their electorate, believing the claims to be true, would vote them out in a flash.
Business leaders may be subject to US sanctions if they continue to operate in the region so they have a duty to their shareholders to pull out of the region, or face serious financial consequences.
Human right’s advocates would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t speak out against a regime which, according to all this overwhelming evidence is breaching every standard they hold dear.
Journalists, whose job it is to bring this matter to the public attention are doing so in great numbers, amplifying the information and creating a situation whereby it’s almost impossible search any news report, website or even a search engine and find any information that suggests otherwise.
Yet none of the “China Experts”, few of the journalists, none of the “5 Eyes, or EU politicians and none of the diplomats representing their interests in China have visited Xinjiang. Their opinions are all formed from reading articles, which were written by people reading other articles.
Any legally trained person looking at a body of evidence of any crime needs to ask themselves some questions: what is the quantum (amount of evidence available)? In this case, it’s fair to say the amount of evidence is enormous. But then, this same learned legal person must consider: how much of it is admissible, how much is relevant and provable? Is the evidence factually based, circumstantial, qualified testimony, sworn testimony or hearsay? Is there any physical evidence, weapons, objects, tools or perhaps scarring on inside a person’s body?
In considering this evidence, decision makers go through various stages: the evidence is unprovable; it may give reasonable doubt; it could be clear and convincing; or, the best kind of evidence; proven beyond reasonable doubt. In every society making accusations against China for its activities in Xinjiang, the burden of proof is the job of the accuser, in other words, they must prove the guilt and the defendant is innocent until they do: “innocent until proven guilty”.
That right however, is being denied to China, the entire country is assumed guilty and is not being given the opportunity to prove itself innocent. The very people who can prove this innocence, lawyers, doctors, investigators, human right’s advocates, UN and EU diplomats, politicians from any of the accusing country and diplomats from those countries representing their interests in China all refuse to visit Xinjiang, because to do so, would allow themselves to be put into a position to disprove their own allegations. This leaves China trying to prove its innocence against a global media, political and human rights campaign which goes against the very rights and legal systems the politicians, journalist and other campaigners stand for.
Why are politicians and journalists accusing China whilst lawyers and courts take a more cautious approach? The evidence on Xinjiang is overwhelming but floats between unprovable, reasonable doubt and quite convincing. It never reaches the points of provable or beyond reasonable doubt. In fact, most of the evidence would be described, if this were a British court of law, as circumstantial. That is to say, it’s believable but not provable.
The original number of 800,000 prisoners has been updated and revised so many times that no one can cite an accurate number, it’s been as high as 3 million, it’s even been anecdotally reported as 8 million. That uncertainty alone creates a reasonable doubt but where did it come from? Even the Chairman of the World Uyghur Conference, Omar Kanat, has been recorded in a video interview with Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone, saying he gets the number from the media and they got the information from him!
Where the story started, according to Ben Norton and Ajit Singh of Thegrayzone.com (https://thegrayzone.com/2018/08/23/un-did-not-report-china-internment-camps-uighur-muslims/) was on 10th August 2018, in a meeting, independent of the United Nations, Gay McDougall, the only American in the meeting, who was not employed by, or authorised to speak on behalf of the UN, unqualified and inexperienced on Chinese matters told a committee she had heard “credible reports” which she then was unable to provide a source to back up. This information, which was nothing more provable than a rumour, became the source of “credible reports”. A Reuters reporter present at the time reported and, within hours, it was picked up, amplified and spread around the world as a “UN committee states…” Since that day, despite denials from the UN that they actually made this statement, it has become the mantra of the narrative with numbers changing, usually between 1 and 3 million. To date, not one investigator or journalist has been able to show factual or even documentary evidence of any program of incarceration — merely repetitions of this so-called “UN Committee report”. This would be the first, and perhaps most important item that a legally trained mind would conclude casts reasonable doubt on the issue.
Let’s consider why there would be any other reasonable doubts: In every case of genocide in history, there’s been an exodus, hundred, thousands, or even millions of people leave the country, cross borders, usually illegally. seeking safety in other countries. This isn’t happening in Xinjiang or any of the provinces or countries that border the region. When there is genocide going on NGO’s rush to the region, set up camps and help victims, yet not one NGO has made the effort to visit the region, let alone setup aid stations. The last time a representative of UN Human Rights did visit was Louise Arbour the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2005. Perhaps this alone should provide a reasonable doubt, but there’s more.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang making their living selling products, singing, dancing and sharing their lives as vloggers, opinion leaders and influencers on both Chinese and international social media, (go to Google and type the words Uyghur, Dancer, Fruit, if you can read or write Chinese, look at Weibo, Douyin and Bili Bili and you’ll see thousands on the same search words). Of course, because of the aforementioned massive amount of propaganda, the search will reveal many stories and articles related to this alleged genocide, but you will see, there are many young Uyghurs making a good living online, this is hardly likely to happen in a region of oppression. Several Uyghurs have found great fame and popularity inside of China and become known to the world. Many Uyghurs sit in very senior government positions in China, on executive boards and some are international diplomats. The Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Xuekeliti Zaker, is also a Uyghur. Entertainment, local governance, central government (The Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Arken Imirbaki is a Uyghur) and even international diplomacy are hardly likely to happen if the region they come from is being systematically oppressed and their people persecuted, casting more doubt on the veracity of claims.
A fact known to every foreigner who lives in China as much as every Chinese person casts more reasonable doubt, Uyghurs are found all over China operating small businesses, mostly restaurants as their cuisine is incredibly popular, this freedom to operate in a country which supposedly oppresses them seems highly unlikely. This is unknown to journalists and investigators who obtain their information from reports but never visit China and enjoy the Uyghur cuisine.
So why then are some Uyghurs and Kazakhs in different countries around the world giving evidence of incarceration, abuse and torture? Giving evidence and swearing an affidavit are two different things. A search of the internet shows many testimonies to be found on Xinjiang. But it’s difficult to find sworn affidavits. This is strange because courts matters are usually sworn in through affidavits. They become enforceable legal documents with punishments of fines and even imprisonment for lying. So, why aren’t there more affidavits? Furthermore, many of the recorded testimonies have changed from 2017/18. Reports of incarceration with no torture or abuse, to incarceration with beatings and torture in 2020. Some even changed to include reports of forced sterilisations. Could these changes be due to coercion or incentives? Could the lack of commitment to sign sworn affidavits indicate an unwillingness to face legal consequences? Either way, when sworn affidavits are so easy to complete, the lack of them casts an element of doubt on the reasonableness of the claim.
On enquiry in China, some names of these witnesses are unknown perhaps they’ve been changed for security reasons, but this information isn’t available. Others are known, some were criminals released after serving a sentence or after an investigation found no cause to proceed. Some of these are Uyghurs but many are Kazakhs. Some have links with other countries through citizenship or marriage. As with many countries, criminals, even suspected criminals with dual citizenship or citizens of other countries are often deported. If not, they may sometimes choose to leave to go other countries where they have family.
Others are known to Chinese authorities but have never entered the Chinese criminal system, some never even lived in China or they left the country before these re-education centres were even built and are now claiming to have family and friends inside them. One notable example is a leader of the Australian Uyghur community, Arselan Hideyat, who claims his father-in-law Adil Mijit, was taken and is now uncontactable. His father-in-law is a well-known vlogger on Chinese social media and posts happy singing and dancing videos daily on social media! Why Mr Mijit no longer contacts his son-in-law or his daughter is a private matter between them, but he is certainly not in any camp as a quick search of Chinese social media will show. Claims such as these throw more reasonable doubt into the decision-making process.
The doubt cast upon these witnesses is not cast by Chinese authorities, but by their own changes in testimony and the quickly debunked images posted by overseas Uyghurs as images of oppression and found to be photos or videos from sources outside of China — a man in Cambodia being filmed as he was beaten for gambling debts is one example, a picture of 14 people smuggled in a car across borders in Europe is another, a picture of a woman being beaten was found to come from a Taiwanese sex industry video, a photo of a note found in a shoe claiming to be from a Uyghur in Xinjiang but the shoe was made in Vietnam and assembled in New York, there are many more. These obviously and easily debunked fraudulent claims are the reason doubt is cast on the credibility of sources. Finally, when visited by Chinese media, the families of some of these claimants themselves have no idea why their brother or sisters make such claims. One lady claimed by a family member to have been imprisoned for years was found by CGTN to be working in a restaurant and in great health, in a TV interview she was concerned about her family member being misled in the United States.
As well as many of these stories being easily debunked, we should also ask ourselves if these so-called witnesses were arbitrarily arrested, incarcerated, tortured, raped, sterilised or mistreated in other ways, why did the “guilty and authoritarian” Chinese government issue them with passports to leave the country and travel to a place where they would be free to discuss these atrocities? A question we have never seen asked of any of them.
The language of the Uyghurs is apparently being culturally cancelled. But this doesn’t seem to be true on the ground. Local language is strongly used and very much alive in Xinjiang. It can be seen in the background of almost every photograph and heard on every video which comes out of the region but more importantly, if someone visits the region, they can see for themselves, it’s widely used on government signage, every road sign and almost every shop in the region uses it. What IS happening is the local people are being taught in Chinese in school, in the same way a Cantonese speaker is taught in Mandarin in Guangdong, a Uyghur, Mongolian, Tibetan, Kazakh or any of the other 10 ethnic minorities which make up Xinjiang are being taught in Mandarin, like the Cantonese schoolchild, the Uyghur will go home and use he or her language in the family.
Claims of religious oppression in Xinjiang also cause concern but, once again are easily refuted. The region has more than 24,000 mosques, many of them recently built and almost all built in the last 50 years. The leader of the Islamic Association of Xinjiang, Abudurekfu Tumunyzi, along with almost 100 other scholars and religious leaders wrote a letter in July 2019 to Mike Pompeo, expressing their anger at his insistence of religious intolerance and urging him to review and reduce his bias. This is not one or two “Pro-Beijing radicals, but the lifeblood of Islam in the region. Once again, reasonable doubt that claims of even cultural genocide or religious repression are unlikely to be true.
What’s missing most from the discussion on Xinjiang is local human intelligence. Human intelligence takes two forms, one is the on the ground observations, (local intelligence). The other is away from the sources analysing the information to draw conclusions, (remote intelligence).
We’ve seen satellite images of “camps” many of which have already been proven by Chinese TV and online users to be chicken farms, shopping centres, residential complexes and schools. We’ve also seen places identified remotely as “prisons” where people in uniform can be seen on a grainy satellite image as they walk from the “prison complex” to the “work camp”. But if we had local intelligence on the ground in China, those same images would look nothing like prison camps, they would look exactly like what they are: factories with large working populations who, because of the distances involved and migratory nature of the workforce in China, live in dormitories.
We know through media and even supported by Western media that there were terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, many people, including the moderate Imam of Kashgar and Vice-President of the Islamic Association of Xinjiang, Jume Tahir (stabbed to death inside his own mosque) as well as many Uyghurs and police officers died as a result. Security was inevitably ramped up and many buildings considered to be vulnerable were made more secure. Fences were constructed, and military personnel were drafted into the region.
A very obvious method of keeping people in these factories and schools safe from potential terrorism, is to erect fences around them — so obvious that the United States has now done the same around the White House, Capitol Hill and many other buildings in Washington DC.
A further method of reducing terrorism is to remove the causes of it. Radical extremism exists where poverty and deprivation exist. This is the same in every poor region, and in every religion. Two ways that are successful in fighting these are to remove the poverty and to educate the population so they can take advantage of job opportunities created by poverty alleviation projects. A third way is to attempt to kill all the extremists, but, as has been found in North Africa, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa (Somalia) killing one radical creates a family of more radicals — it’s what some people in the US are now defining as “the never-ending war”.
Like China, France has commenced on a less confrontational path of education, de-radicalisation and poverty alleviation. The EU applauds the French move, but the EU condemns the Chinese process. Let’s consider why.
Reasonable doubt exists on the information provided by Adrian Zenz. He is an IT expert; he claims to hold a PhD in Social Anthropology from Cambridge but a search on https://www.socanth.cam.ac.uk/directory/specific-people shows no record of a doctorate issued to him in 2017, or any year before or after. He previously claimed he holds an online doctorate from the Columbia International University, this is not to be mistaken for Columbia, the famous university, it is a North Carolina Religious based institution. So, there is some doubt about his credentials. There is no doubt however about his motivation, in his own words, quoted by the Wall Street Journal: “I feel very clearly lead by God to do this”. He visited China, in 2007 as a tourist but he doesn’t speak, read or write Chinese. Despite these limitations, he’s described in US media as a “China Expert”. He acquired thousands of pages of information about Xinjiang and it’s accurate. There are two issues related to this: one is that the information was freely available — hardly the action of a secretive, authoritarian government wishing to hide a genocide; the other is that it was commissioned by the BBC and has been analysed with a view to fitting their, already decided, narrative rather than a view to creating an objective opinion.
Local intelligence on the ground would clearly indicate that, what remote intelligence calls a prison is, in fact, a school, boarders can be seen leaving every Friday evening and returning every Sunday evening locals come and go every day. The same intelligence could tell the remote analysts that their “larger prison” is actually a factory, workers wear uniforms, eat in company canteens and sleep in dormitories. These buildings, like schools, government buildings and many other vulnerable places, also have secure fencing around the outside and security guards on the gate — this is not exclusive to Xinjiang, these are found in every town, city and even some villages throughout China. Local intelligence would have immediately cast reasonable doubt on the assessment that these are anything other than what China claims them to be.
Of course, Xinjiang does have prisons, no doubt some of them have been constructed in the last few years and have probably been identified by ASPI. All governments have prisons, governments fighting radical terrorists and separatism have more secure and remote prisons. So, there’s a large element of truth in the findings of Adrian Zenz and ASPI, except they have both cast so many doubts on the number of locations which have proven to be something other than a prison, it’s hard to find credible evidence to even create a convincing tale, let alone proof beyond reasonable doubt.
No court in the world should convict on the basis of a body of circumstantial evidence and any investigator who really cared enough, really wanted to know the truth, would visit the scene of the crime and ensure the physical evidence exists to get the conviction. We have to wonder why no one from the “prosecution” side has ventured into China to assess the situation, especially since China has made offers for them to do so and has invited many others whose voices are being disregarded:
Most recently, just 21st February this year, China made an open invitation to the UNHCHR: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/22/china-rejects-uighurs-genocide-charge-invites-uns-rights-chief
In September 2020 China, during an online summit with the EU made an invitation to visit and inspect Xinjiang to allay their fears, to date this invitation has not been taken up: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8734469/amp/China-says-EU-observers-free-visit-Xinjiang.html
October 2020 The representatives of 20 Arab States went to Xinjiang toured some facilities and met with the Chairman of the Region, a Uyghur, Xuekeliti Zaker — they saw nothing wrong.
According to one US Newspaper 1200 foreign representatives, journalists and diplomats have visited Xinjiang over a 14-month period: https://newmexico.statenews.net/news/267750036/over-1200-foreign-officials-journalists-visit-xinjiang-since-2018
In June 2019 the UN Counter Terrorism Chief visited Xinjiang and helped the UN reach an understanding with China: https://indianexpress.com/article/world/china-says-reached-broad-consensus-with-un-after-xinjiang-visit-5782738/
Looking at the evidence, it’s clear that China doesn’t need to prove its innocence, but western media, western governments and certainly the investigators of this alleged crime against humanity need to work a lot harder in order to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have the evidence to bring this case to court for a conviction — right now, they don’t, nor will they ever, because they’re not even looking for it.
If we ask ourselves why they aren’t looking for it — the answer is clear. They don’t want to prove themselves wrong and they’ve already convinced “the court of public opinion”. Maybe that’s enough. The same way it was enough to invade Iraq where no weapons of mass destruction have ever been found, the same way Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Vietnam and many others were invaded. And, it’s this fact that is the most worrying!