Xinjiang, officially known as Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was somehow exposed to the world as a place of ‘forced labour’, ‘forced sterilisation’ and ‘suppression of indigenous minorities. Western media propagate the allegation against China on ‘violation’ of human rights and ‘crime’ against humanity in this strategically important autonomous region. In fact, people outside China receive the news on that region through the western media. That news items generate a general perception in our mind that though China has progressed to a great extent in the economy, education, science and technology, the attitude of the Han-dominated Chinese authorities towards other religious and ethnic people has not much changed. It may be mentioned that different scenarios are seen in other Chinese areas like Lanzhou and Qiubei County. Through YouTube videos presented by travel vlogger and YouTuber Trevor James and LaotaiArui, we can visualise the happy, prosperous and harmonious life of Chinese Muslims in those areas. Since the mid-1980s, I had the opportunity to be associated with many Chinese people, in particular Chinese aeronautical technicians, very closely. Since that period, a number of technicians have been staying in Bangladesh. I also visited few cities in China for my official tours. Their humble behavior and warm hospitality overwhelmed me. Truly speaking, I have been expecting comprehensive information from the Chinese authorities on this burning issue to clear my dubious mind.
It was a matter of appreciation that the Chinese authorities made a special effort to arrange a virtual briefing on Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a noble objective to clarify the situation in Xinjiang. The briefing was conducted under the title ‘Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land’ on 19 March 2021 jointly by the China Embassy in Malaysia and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region authorities. Representatives from Xinjiang, China Embassy in Malaysia and the Malaysian government, political parties, universities, think tanks and NGOs participated in the briefing. JKSM (Department of Syariah Judiciary of the Malaysian Government), International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Muslim World Research Center (MWRC), Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Sinchew news media made various written questions that were answered and discussed very elaborately by the representatives of the Chinese government.
I availed myself of the opportunity to attend the briefing on the virtual platform to have a clear picture of the Xinjiang situation. The virtual briefing was vibrant and the speakers enthusiastically accepted written questions from participating members.
Xinjiang, located on the north-western side of China, holds geopolitical strategic importance. It has borders with eight countries – Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It has been an important route of road communication between the East and the West with the history of bearing a part of the famous Silk Road. Significantly, Xinjiang is home to various ethnic cultures and multiple religious communities. A considerable part of the population follows Islam. It is also to be mentioned that Xinjiang is the core area on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
For the last few years, the western world has been showing their concern on the ‘violation’ of human rights and ‘genocides’ by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang against Uygur ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Muslims. The media reports were prepared mainly based on few research papers, where the information of carrying out massive surveillance by Chinese law enforcing agencies over Uygur Muslims and placing thousands of them in the ‘concentration camps’ were highlighted. It has also been reported that the Uygur women are being ‘forced sterilised’ which may be considered a ‘crime of genocide’. Further to those, the question of ‘forced labour’ for harvesting cotton has also been raised by the western media that can be termed a ‘violation’ of human rights.
In the virtual briefing, the Chinese authorities gave adequate information and statistics to invalidate the allegations raised by the western media. The statistics show that from 2010 to 2018, the number of Uygurs in Xinjiang has increased by 25.04%, which is higher than Xinjiang’s overall population growth rate of 13.99%. The ethnic population growth rate is 22.14%, where the Han population growth rate is 2% during the period mentioned. It is learned that all mosques are provided with all utility services like water, electricity, natural gas, radio and television by the authorities. It is also encouraging to note that since 1996, the government of Xinjiang has been arranging chartered flights to Saudi Arabia every year for performing holy Hajj. Special attention has been given to the Xinjiang people, particularly to the ethnic minorities, for alleviation of poverty through appropriate human resources development. Food, compulsory education, basic medical services, shelters and safe drinking waters are ensured for all. In the question and answer session, the argument on ‘forced labour’ was elaborately countered. A clear idea was given on the Chinese law and how the law is implemented to ensure human rights in Xinjiang. It is depicted from the above information that the question of ‘forced sterilisation’, ‘forced labour’ and ‘suppression’ of Uygur Muslims might be propaganda of the western world to defame China’s emerging image.
In general, the briefing provided the participants with all the necessary information to understand the present situation in Xinjiang. The speakers offered invitations to all to visit the beautiful land of Xinjiang to get experience on the real situation over there. Regular interactive sessions and arrangements of visits for government officials, think tanks, NGOs and media people of different parts of the world would definitely help to understand the real situation of Xinjiang.
- Md Humayun Kabir, a former Air Vice Marshal of Bangladesh Air Force, and former Defense Adviser to the Bangladesh Government in Malaysia, is currently a Senior Research Fellow, and Project Co-coordinator for Bangladesh of China-Muslim World Co-operation Research (CMWCR) at Muslim World Research Center (MWRC) in Malaysia. He can be reached by email - email@example.com