Based on a handful of think tank reports and witness testimonies, Western governments have levied false allegations of genocide and slavery in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
A closer look makes clear that the politicization of China’s anti-terrorism policies in Xinjiang is another front of the U.S.-led hybrid war on China.
This resource compilation provides a starting point for critical inquiry into the historical context and international response to China’s policies in Xinjiang, providing a counter-perspective to misinformation that abounds in mainstream coverage of the autonomous region.
In the mid-2010s, China launched far-reaching de-radicalization and economic development programs in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Before then, few casual Western observers were even aware of the province’s existence, which makes up 17% of China’s land and whose population consists of 65% ethnic minority peoples. Fewer still could speak to the autonomous region’s complex political, cultural, and religious history as well as to its complex legacies as a crossroads between diverse peoples over many centuries.
However, since 2018, Western media and state officials have put Chinese government policy in Xinjiang under intense scrutiny, citing just a handful of think tank reports and witness testimonies to lodge charges of forced labor, slavery, and genocide.
Having saturated Western media, these charges are difficult to systematically refute. The situation on the ground is complex, and there are limits to what we can know. While we recognize that there are aspects of PRC policy in Xinjiang to critique, these critiques should be debated and resolved on Chinese terms and in Chinese dialogues, and not be used as crude ammunition in the U.S.-led geopolitical assault on China. Based on the history of Western atrocity propaganda, its funding sources, and the poor quality of the ‘research’ being pushed, we are skeptical that the U.S.—having engaged in two decades of perpetual war in Muslim-majority nations—has any legitimate moral interest or grounds on which to defend Muslim religious rights in Xinjiang.
Moreover, given the history of PRC ethnic and religious minority policy, and the reports from first-hand delegations to Xinjiang from countries and organizations including Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and even the World Bank, neither genocide nor slavery accurately describe the realities of Xinjiang. It is not a coincidence that these accusations have ramped up during a period of unprecedented Western antagonism towards China. Instead, these unfounded claims serve primarily to build consensus for conflict, intervention, and war with China.
The effectiveness of Western propaganda lies in its ability to render unthinkable any critique or alternative—to monopolize the production of knowledge and truth itself. In this context, it is important to note that the U.S. and its allies are in the minority when it comes to its critiques of Chinese policy in Xinjiang. At two separate convenings of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 and 2020, letters condemning Chinese conduct in Xinjiang were outvoted, 22-50 and 27-46. Many of those standing in support of Chinese policy in Xinjiang are Muslim-majority nations and/or nations that have waged campaigns against extremism on their own soil, including Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, and Nigeria. On the issue of Xinjiang, the clear break in consensus between the Global South and the U.S. bloc suggests that Western critiques of Xinjiang are primarily politically motivated.
These resources are preceded by a timeline that focuses on the events preceding China’s Xinjiang de-radicalization program, the international responses it provoked, and other relevant contexts.
This resource list is intended only for initial inquiry into the immediate controversy over China’s de-radicalization program in Xinjiang. In the spirit of seeking truth from facts, this resource does not offer definitive answers, nor is it comprehensive in scope. It aims only to be a starting point for critical inquiry, and we urge readers to seek a diversity of sources and form their own opinions. A more complete and nuanced view requires further study into the region’s history, China’s policies towards ethnic and religious minorities, and ongoing geopolitical developments.
Note: There are several ways to spell “Uygur” in English, including “Uygur,” “Uighur” and “Uyghur.” “Uyghur” is perhaps the most common in international settings, although “Uygur” is the official romanization by the Chinese government. We will use “Uyghur” in accordance with the common spelling in Western dialogue, except when referring specifically to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Similarly, the common Western spelling of “Kazakh” and “Kyrgyz” differs from the Chinese government’s official romanizations of “Kazak” and “Kirgiz.” We will similarly use the common Western spelling.