Xinjiang camps: Chinese delegation hears testimony at the UN

Access Archive

Click HereDear Access member,

We have a story from journalist John Pomfret on Taiwanese pro-Beijing former gang leader “White Wolf” coming up for you on this weekend — we’ll keep the story paywalled for a few days before opening it up to the public.

Today, on SupChina we have a new installment of Chinese Corner, Jiayun Feng’s weekly roundup of popular non-fiction and long form writing on the Chinese internet. Our newsletter today has two stories at the top, with the weekly roundup and daily list of links below.

Finally, thank you to Sam Crane, as well as all Access members who signed in for a fascinating discussion of Shang Yang, legalism, confucianism, and Xi Jinping this Wednesday. Click here to view the transcripts of all Slack Chats that we have done so far.

You know how to reach me if you want to bend my ear or my inbox:

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. UN anti-racism committee examines Xinjiang

Here is a list of 48 people who will not have a pleasant weekend: They are China’s delegates to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which meets this month to “consider periodic reports” received from several countries, including China.


The session on China began this morning with “among the most strongly worded condemnations to date by an international body of the situation in Xinjiang,” according to Nathan VanderKlippe of the Globe and Mail. Reuters also has a story on today’s session titled U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps. The Committee will continue examining China on Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Geneva time. A summary of today’s session:

  • “We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone,’” Gay McDougall, vice-chair of CERD, told the session.

  • Some Uyghurs “are being treated as enemies of the state based solely on their ethno-religious identity,” she added, noting that many detainees in Xinjiang “have had their due process rights violated,” most have never been charged with any offence, and some just disappear.

  • Mistreatment of Tibetans was also raised during today’s session, “including inadequate use of the Tibetan language in the classroom and at court proceedings.”


The Chinese delegation will respond on Monday to the information presented so far, but its written report to CERD is already available, along with an annex showing official stats from 2000 and 2010 censuses of the ethnic breakdown of China’s population. The report touts the economic growth in Xinjiang and Tibet, and includes claims such as these:

  • “For quite some time now, and especially since 2008, the Chinese Government has steadily pursued ethnic equality, ethnic unity, regional ethnic autonomy and the common prosperity of all ethnic groups as basic principles and policies.”

  • “The Chinese Government respects and protects the freedom of religious beliefs as well as the customs of Muslims… The folkways and customs of ethnic minority Muslims with regard to diet, marriage, funerals and religious festivals are respected.”


“Civil society organizations” also submitted reports to CERD, but a few of them such as the China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture and the China Ethnic Minorities’ Association for External Exchanges are actually Chinese state-controlled organizations. Well-known NGOs that submitted reports include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the World Uyghur Congress. Here are direct download links to all of the other civil society reports: Asian Solidarity Council for Freedom and Democracy, China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture, China Ethnic Minorities’ Association for External Exchanges, China Tibetology, Research Center, Free Tibet, Group of Hong Kong Ethnic Minority students and youth, Happiness Realization Research Institute, Human Rights in China, International Campaign for Tibet, Japan Network to Monitor Violations of the Universal Human Rights, Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, The China Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, The Rights Practice, The Tibet Bureau, Tibet Advocacy Coalition, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

China’s response on Monday is likely to be stony-faced denial of all alleged abuses. We’ll keep you posted.


  • Rahile Dawut “was known as an expert on Uighur shrines, folklore, music and crafts that had been neglected by previous generations of scholars.” She has disappeared into the Xinjiang camp system, according to the New York Times (porous paywall).

  • Sayragul Sauytbay is the ethnic Kazakh Chinese national whose testimony in a Kazakhstan court about being forced to work in a Xinjiang internment camp was recently uploaded to Youtube. Emily Rauhala of the Washington Post has a report on what she calls the “first-of-its-kind courtroom testimony,” combined with details from other Kazakh sources.

  • “A seething and repressed Xinjiang can’t become a hub for trade,” argues Mihir Sharma on Bloomberg (porous paywall).

  • An official Chinese Communist Party recording… characterizes Uyghurs who have been sent for political ‘re-education’ as ‘infected by an ideological illness’—not unlike a disease that must be treated at a hospital,” reports RFA.  

  • “Hundreds of ethnic Hui Muslims are staging a sit-in protest in China’s western region of Ningxia against government plans to demolish a huge new mosque,” according to a Reuters update of a story we noted yesterday.

Finally, a tweet from Chris Buckley, co-author of the New York Times piece above: “Learning about the Uighur scholar Rahile Dawut and speaking to Rachel Harris led me to Sound of Islam, a marvelous collection of music and images from Xinjiang and elsewhere. Cheer yourself up and watch and hear their wonderful recordings.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. Trade war, day 36: People’s Daily blames conflict on American ‘hegemony-dominated mindset’

A little over a month into the U.S.-China trade war, Beijing appears to have concluded that compromise, at least for now, is useless.

A People’s Daily editorial today asked (in Chinese), “What is the essence of the U.S.-provoked trade war?” Among many other things, the editorial in the Chinese Communist Party’s house newspaper asserted:

“It can be said that the hegemony-dominated mindset at the base of the White House’s international relations has led it to misjudge the order of the 21st century, and also misjudge China’s peaceful rise.”

The editorial also tries to dispel what it calls “a few specious viewpoints spread online”:

  • One is “to place the blame on China’s… overconfidence and bombast,” implying that the trade war was a natural response to rising Chinese nationalism. This appears to be a denial in response to recent reports from Reuters and others that Chinese leadership has been rethinking its nationalist rhetoric.

  • Another is “if only China admitted defeat, the U.S. would show mercy, and the trade war would cease.”

Other quotes from the editorial, highlighted by the South China Morning Post, CNBC, and Trivium, include:

  • “Whichever country is the second strongest global power,…[will be] the most important opponent of the United States, and the United States will want to contain that country…It doesn’t matter if it’s the Soviet Union, Japan, or China – there are no exceptions.”

  • China has become an “unprecedented opponent” for the U.S., and “Such a large size, such a heavy thing, can’t be hidden by ‘being low key,’ just like an elephant can’t hide behind a small tree.”

  • “No matter what China does, in the eyes of the United States, China’s development has already ‘damaged the supremacy of the United States.’”

Other than the People’s Daily editorial, there was little hard news in the past day hinting at the future of the trade war. Here’s a roundup of other trade war-related articles:

—Lucas Niewenhuis


Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • August 8 marked the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Olympic Games, which officially began at 8:08 p.m. on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008 — a surfeit of eights to delight superstitious feudalist and communist cadre alike.

  • A male manager at Mobike, one of China’s bike-sharing giants, has been suspended after an anonymous female software engineer accused him of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

  • A second tranche of tariffs on $16 billion in Chinese imports will be activated by the U.S. on August 23, the U.S. Trade Representative announced on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Chinese state media became less restrained in its criticism of the U.S. and President Trump this week, going so far as to threaten Apple with “anger and nationalist sentiment” — basically, a boycott — should tensions continue.

  • The American Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of batches of blood pressure treatment Valsartan that contained a carcinogen in ingredients from three Chinese factories.

  • Protests against China’s peer-to-peer lending industry are spreading across the country.

  • Chinese millennials made some headlines this week. In Chinese media, they are blamed for the country’s declining birth rates and its debt crisis.





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Viral on Weibo: This is how pampered rhesus macaques in China spend their summer!

Nature reserve staff in Jiyuan combine tomatoes, watermelon, and ice as a cool treat for the monkeys in hot Henan weather.

Also, this week, we published our first 360-degree video along with the following videos:


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Chinese Corner: ‘Rocket Girls,’ heart-shaped faces, and the mystery of Chinese agriculture

Jiayun Feng’s review of new writing on the Chinese internet. This week, she takes a closer look at Rocket Girls 火箭少女, the manufactured girl group spun off from the wildly popular show reality TV show Produce 101 创造101, the complicated legacy of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and the lucrative business of heart-shaped faces.

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With the Beijing Summer Olympics kicking off 10 years ago this week, much has already been written on how China has changed in the ensuing decade. One of the biggest developments since 2008 came in October 2014, when the government released a policy document called “Number 46” that outlined China’s plan to create the biggest sports industry in the world, with the target of 5 trillion yuan ($729 billion) in annual revenue by 2025. With another Beijing Olympics coming up in 2022, is the country anywhere close to achieving its goal?

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When people ask me why I moved to Beijing, there’s the typical huayi answer of discovering my roots, of wanting to finally be in a place where having a Chinese face is the norm. But my real reason for leaving New York is because, one weekday night, I saw, in Brooklyn’s BAMcinématek, the newly restored version of Edward Yang’s Taipei Story. The film is magnificent, especially when viewed in the right headspace.

Kuora: The fascinating appeal of Mexican food in China

Kaiser Kuo writes, “Over the years I’ve fed Mexican food — not absolutely 100 percent ‘authentic,’ but pretty close — to dozens of Chinese friends while living in Beijing. They’ve eaten enchiladas, adobo, arroz, frijoles, carnitas, machaca, various tacos, tortilla soup, and much more. And every single one of my Chinese friends has not only loved it, but heaped on seconds and eaten to nearly the point of discomfort.”

‘Not allowed to receive African guests’

Last month, several hotels in Guangzhou posted notices that said African guests were no longer welcome. Among those turned away at the door was a Ugandan magistrate. The hotels say they were told to post these notices by the police, but the local security bureau denies any involvement.

Budget caps for period dramas

A few days ago, news broke that media regulators had issued new directives capping the production budget of online period dramas at 8 million RMB ($1.2 million) per episode and contemporary dramas at 6 million RMB ($878,000). Also, news on the tax evasion crackdown on Chinese film stars.  

Demba Ba enraged by alleged racism  

Chinese football authorities are investigating claims of racial abuse directed at former Newcastle and Chelsea star Demba Ba in a Chinese Super League game on August 4 between Ba’s Shanghai Shenhua and Changchun Yatai FC.  

Team China debuts at Gay Games  

On August 4, 87 Chinese participants, including Chinese residing abroad, joined a parade of athletes and supporters at the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris to mark the opening of the 10th international Gay Games, a one-week sporting event modeled after the Olympics and dedicated to raising awareness of gay and transgender rights.

Profane roadside rant against Beijingers incites mob

Last week Friday, a driver in Beijing — who was not from the city — cursed out a local biker and then threw in a few general insults about Beijingers was hounded by an online human search engine and an old fashioned, bloodthirsty mob demanding revenge.

Jinri Toutiao resurrects dirty jokes app  

Chinese news aggregator Jingri Toutiao 今日头条 has recently rolled out a new app called Pipixia 皮皮虾, meant for sharing humorous videos, jokes, and memes. It looks suspiciously like Neihan Duanzi 内涵段子, an app that Toutiao shuttered four months ago after China’s internet regulators complained of “vulgarity.”


Sinica Podcast: Introducing the NüVoices Podcast

A crossover show with a new podcast in the Sinica network: NüVoices. This episode, hosted by Beijing-based translator Alice Xin Liu and Hong Kong-Canadian journalist Joanna Chiu, features FT correspondent Yuan Yang on China’s #MeToo movement.

NüVoices Podcast: China’s #MeToo momentum

Alice Xin Liu and Joanna Chiu interview Yuan Yang, the Beijing-based technology correspondent for the Financial Times, on how #MeToo has gained momentum in mainland China despite online censorship and university officials reportedly putting pressure on students to stay silent.

TechBuzz China: Pinduoduo: From Zero to $23B in Three Years

Rui Ma and Ying-Ying Lu trace the story of ecommerce company Pinduoduo, the fastest-growing app in the history of the Chinese internet, from its founding in 2015 and growth to 344 million active users to its recent Nasdaq listing.

Subscribe to TechBuzz China on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or Stitcher, or click here for the RSS feed.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 59

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: Hong Kong Stock Exchange cracks down on “backdoor listing,” Starbucks eyes China’s booming food-delivery sector, Google’s rumored return to China, and more.


Making yak butter

In this photo from 2011, a son watches his father demonstrate the art of making yak butter (酥油 sūyóu) in Yunnan Province.

Jia Guo