The ‘students’ of Xinjiang — Beijing on the defensive


“Dispelling any doubts that the Chinese government is trying to create a new narrative about its indoctrination camps in Xinjiang, CCTV on Tuesday broadcast a primetime program praising the camps,” tweeted New York Times reporter Chris Buckley this morning. You can watch the whole program here (in Chinese).

  • The internees are called “students” (学员 xuéyuán) in the program, which shows happy Uyghurs attending classes in a facility in Hotan where they are learning Mandarin and vocational skills.
  • “China rolls out PR push on Xinjiang internment camps” is how Agence France-Presse describes “a series of op-eds and interviews and a roll out of new regulations that retroactively codify the use of the system of extra-judicial ‘reeducation’ camps in Xinjiang.”
  • “Xinjiang’s soft landing to peace, stability deserves respect” is the title of one Global Times contribution to the propaganda campaign.
  • Free nutritious food, TV, air-con, vocational training, arts and sports activities — these are the many benefits available at the camps, according to a senior Xinjiang official interviewed by Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese, in English, or see Guardian summary).
  • Hú Xījìn 胡锡进, editor of Global Times and a capable propagandist, joined the PR campaign on Twitter in two threads:

I have learned the number of people who are receiving de-extremism education at vocational training centers in Xinjiang. I am not authorized to disclose this figure. All I can say is that it is much fewer than “1 million or so” speculated by the outside world.

Chinese officials didn’t reveal the true number to avoid falling into the stats trap, giving Western media another excuse to hype up the issue.

Situation in Xinjiang was out of control before. Over 1,000 violent attacks occurred in a year. But local government held back the media coverage at the time. As a result, outside world cannot understand the following measures. This is the price of insufficient press freedom.

There had been such a horrific story in XJ. A road was blocked by mobs from nearby villages.They stopped all the vehicles and killed all the Han people inside. It is hoped the outside world can understand the measures XJ is taking.They are taken as a last and necessary resort.

The most pressing task for XJ is to stabilize the situation, preventing civilians from being killed by young Uyghur people brainwashed by extremism and the latter not being killed by police at crime scene.Vocational training centers may not be the ideal solution, but it works.

  • Another enthusiastic but perhaps less effective propagandist is the deputy chief of mission of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚. He tweeted angrily in recent days at a prominent former diplomat and several writers — 1, 2, 3, 4 — who had shared an article in The Times of London originally headlined, “China demands that Uighur Muslims eat pork” (later changed to “Show loyalty by eating pork, Beijing tells Uighur Muslims”).  
  • One of his targets, Pakistan’s former top diplomat to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, hit back and “slammed… Lijian Zhao for his ‘undignified’ trolling,” The Hindu reports.

Meanwhile “Malaysia freed 11 ethnic Uygur Muslims who fled to the Southeast Asian nation after a Thai jailbreak last year because they did nothing wrong there, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday,” reports Reuters.