The Answer to: Why Media is Always wrong about Xinjiang

Every day, we read reports about atrocities in Xinjiang. “Concentration camps” came first. These turned out to be schools for education and retraining. Reports of forced labour were actually job opportunities for rural people who had no local jobs. Taking kids from their parents were found to be nothing more than kids from rural areas going to boarding schools in urban areas. Then came stories of babies being taken and locked in orphanages, closer inspection of this found that kids were taken to kindergarten, so their parents were free to work during the day, taking advantage of job new opportunities.

Language destruction was reported shortly afterward, this transpired to be nothing more than the enforcement of a regulation which, China-wide, requires students to study Mandarin in school so that more job and social opportunities would be available to them. After this we saw articles detailing the destruction of religion. Satellite images were shown to the world of a Mosque being “destroyed” which, when verified, was found to be a gate to a mosque being removed, so the mosque itself could be expanded.

Then we started to see stories about genocide, including forced abortions and sterilisations which, when examined turned out to be untrue. Allegations were made that the local Uyghur population weren’t allowed to have children and were quickly dismissed when it was established that their population, during a period of national family planning, has increased. Something other ethnicities in China have also done, but only minorities, not the Han majority.

The USA impounded a shipment of hair from China, saying it was human hair from “prisoners in Xinjiang”. It then transpired that the hair was artificial, so the story needed to change. The products suddenly became made in Xinjiang by “slave labour”. However, once again, on investigation, it turned out the products were made in a factory supported, funded and visited by representatives of the World Bank.

This raises two questions: Why does Western media keep doing this? The obvious reason is that it suits the US government to keep China destabilised and defensive because they’re afraid of China’s rise. Xinjiang is a major component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and destabilising it will inhibit China’s growth by affecting land routes into Europe. The second question is a little more complicated and asks: Where does the media get its stories?

Over a long period of time, there have been terrorist incidents in Xinjiang, these are an undeniable matter of record. China’s approach is exactly as Europe is now taking. Arresting and punishing terrorists. But it’s much more complicated and needs to understand why people become terrorists?

The perfect breeding grounds for extremism are poverty and under-education. Most people don’t turn to crime but, because of poverty and lack of educational opportunities, some may have ideas and thoughts that could lead in that direction. These are the people who could become extremists. China is not anti-Islam, anti-Muslim, or even Anti-Uyghur, but, like everywhere else worldwide, China is anti-extremism. It’s these issues that China is addressing through education for children, re-training for young adults and poverty alleviation for all.

To do this, schools were constructed, kids in school need to be safe and need to be housed in dormitories because many of them come from rural areas. Factories have been encouraged, with incentives, to go to the region. Once again, they need to be secure and they need dormitories too. The purchase of security equipment and beds for these schools and factories have been interpreted as being for prisons or “concentration camps” when in fact they are a normal part of China’s culture and a massive injection into the local economy. How could this misinterpretation possibly happen?

The US found a German man called Adrian Zenz. Zenz is touted as a “scholar and an Expert on Xinjiang” yet he only visited China once, on holiday in 2007, he can’t speak, read or write Chinese. He was awarded his PhD by Columbia International University. This is not the famous Columbia University, it’s a place of religious instruction offering online PhDs. On its website the university declares it accepts: “students of any race, colour, national and ethnic origin” what it doesn’t say, until you dig deeper is that it only accepts Evangelical Christians. In other words, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, even normal Christians, need not apply. Zenz, through his own book, “Worthy to Escape” has proven himself to be a controversial figure even with other Christians. He talks openly about: inequality of women; disapproval of homosexuals, disciplinary beating of children and asserts that, unless you share his beliefs, you aren’t suitable to enter heaven. More worryingly: his God has spoken to him and told him to “destroy the Communist Party of China”, his own words!

This religious extremist, using computer data-mining techniques, searches online for Chinese documents. He’s found building materials, security supplies and many other construction items, including beds, which were sent to Xinjiang. He’s found information about normal medical treatment but misunderstood much of the information. Interesting that none of the information he found is deemed secret enough to hide! He also claims to have interviewed 8 Uyghurs, who gave him information he extrapolated with flawed maths, to suggest 800,000 Uyghurs were being detained.

He understands nothing about the culture of Chinese kids living in schools or migratory workers travelling to live in factory dormitories. His interpretation, based on his extreme religious beliefs, dislike of Muslims, hatred of communists, and total lack of awareness of any Chinese cultural knowledge have caused him to interpret and report to the US Government, that he believes prisons and forced labour are part of everyday life for the Uyghur population.

None of the reports we read are from reporters who visit Xinjiang or interview Uyghurs there, few, if any, have lived in Mainland China and all quote “credible sources”. It’s these reporters, drawing information from Zenz’s flawed reports, placating publishers who want this narrative and repeating them so often to readers, they think it must be true.

I’m British born Australian citizen. I live in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write about China experiences on and off my bike