Turkey: China’s Uyghur policies are a “great shame for humanity”

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Today’s news in four bullet points:

  • The government of Turkey has strongly condemned China’s treatment of Uyghurs, and noted in particular the reported death of folk poet Abdurehim Heyit in prison.

  • Beijing responded by producing a video of a pale but very much alive Heyit saying he is in good health, but is being investigated “for allegedly violating national laws.”  

  • Both Washington and Beijing want Trump and Xi to meet in mid-to-late March to settle trade and economic disputes, meaning the 90-day period of talks is likely to be extended.

  • China spent the last few days denying allegations of espionage and suspicions of Huawei across Europe — from Brussels to Lithuania.


Our first Slack chat of 2019 will be a digital fireside get together with our own Kaiser Kuo on Monday, February 18, at 10 a.m. EST (11 p.m. Beijing time). If you need any help getting logged on to the Slack channel, please email lucas@supchina.com. You can find transcripts of previous Slack chats in the #access_qa_archive channel.

If you are lonely in New York on Valentine’s Day, why don’t you spend it with us! We will be recording a live Sinica Podcast at Fordham Law School with New Yorker writer Zhá Jiànyīng 查建英 at 6:30 p.m. Access members get free tickets!

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team

1. Ankara to Beijing: Xinjiang is ‘a great shame for humanity’

The government of Turkey has issued a strongly worded statement that condemns China for its treatment of Uyghurs:

Practices violating the fundamental human rights of Uyghur Turks and other Muslim communities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have worsened, especially during the last two years, and have been brought to the agenda of the international community.

In particular, the official declaration of the “Sinification of All Religions and Beliefs” policy in October 2017 was another step towards the goal of eliminating the ethnic, religious and cultural identities of the Uyghur Turks and other Muslim communities in the region.

The reintroduction of internment camps in the XXIst century and the policy of systematic assimilation against the Uyghur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity.

We expressed our views on the tragedy in the Xinjiang region to the Chinese authorities at all levels.

In such an environment, we have learned with deep sorrow the passing away in his second year of imprisonment of the distinguished folk poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs. This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region. We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities…

On this occasion, we invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uyghur Turks and to close the internment camps.

The Chinese government responded with a proof-of-life video released online by China Radio  International’s Turkish arm — see BBC report with video, or just watch the video here. It shows — apparently — a pale but very much alive Abdurehim Heyit. He says he is in good health, not being abused, but “being investigated for allegedly violating national laws.”

The style of the video is similar to the series of “confessions” of unconvicted people accused of nebulous crimes produced by state broadcaster CCTV over the last six years. China Radio International is a separately managed organization. As far as I know, this is China Radio International’s first foray into forced confessional reality TV.

Reporting and commentary:


—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. Pacific Reset, day 221: Trump-Xi meeting still being floated

Two reports, from the South China Morning Post and Axios, indicate that Beijing and Washington both remain interested in a face-to-face meeting between General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and President Donald Trump to settle trade and economic disputes.

  • Beijing proposed that Trump meet Xi “around the time of the annual Boao Forum for Asia, which runs from March 26-29,” but “neither the place nor the timing [of the summit] is finalized,” a source told the SCMP.

  • In Washington, Trump’s advisers are considering proposing a second Mar-a-Lago summit for “as soon as mid-March,” Axios reported.

The fact that a presidential-level meeting is still in the cards — and that both sides are now reportedly angling for it to happen in mid-to-late March — means that the 90 days of trade talks are likely to be extended past the March 2 deadline. Last week, Trump said that he would not meet Xi before the deadline, but further planning for a summit had not been reported.

There is plenty of other news today related to the Pacific Reset, including allegations that Beijing is operating a ring of 250 spies in Brussels, allegations of espionage and Huawei misdeeds in Norway, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic, and an American fentanyl sanctions bill that targets Chinese manufacturers.

Please click through to SupChina for a roundup of links and summaries.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

3. A roundup of opinion pieces on China

The U.S.-China trade war, the tech cold war, what we’re calling the Pacific Reset is a conflict of frenemies happening on many fronts. Sometimes the most vicious fighting is in the opinion pages of the world’s newspapers, but you can also read a great deal of common sense there, along with boatloads of outright nonsense.

We’re going to start collecting op-eds and opinion pieces about China from newspapers and other publications across the globe. We’ll present them without comment from time to time in our newsletter, and develop an archive of them on our website. Here is a selection from the last couple of weeks:

In praise of Xi Jinping

China doesn’t need democracy, it needs a strong leader like Xi Jinping / SCMP
Chi Wang (王冀 Wáng Jì), former head of the Chinese section of the U.S. Library of Congress, and president of the US-China Policy Foundation: “China lacks the ideological framework under which democracy could spontaneously develop or be fostered. Confucianism is inherently undemocratic; it encourages obedience, not freedom or personal liberty.”

Xinjiang and Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan must seek to repatriate 1.5 million Kazakhs from China / Eurasia Review

Paul Goble: “China says it will allow 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang to emigrate to Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan has an annual quota of 2500 such immigrants. But those figures are a drop in the bucket, Kazakh political analyst Aydos Sarym says, given that there are some 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs in China that Astana must attract home.”

Indian competition with China

India is falling behind China in an Asian arms race / WSJ (paywall)

Sadanand Dhume: “High defense-spending totals mask the weakness of its weapons systems, and the threat is growing.”

Pacific Reset / trade war / tech cold war

The ‘new Cold War’ with China is way overblown. Here’s why. / Washington Post

Joshua Shifrinson: “The ideological, historical and geopolitical differences between today and the Cold War years far outweigh the similarities… [A]t times it’s hard to understand what the United States and China are competing over. If that’s true, then there’s reason to believe there are more nuanced ways of understanding the tensions — and options for managing great power politics — than a Cold War reboot.”

Key diplomat in 1979 opening of U.S.-China relations says they are more strained than ever / Washington Post

Joe Davidson:

Chas W. Freeman Jr.…a retired Foreign Service officer and longtime China hand who was intimately involved with the establishment of diplomatic relations…names national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as among the “neoconservatives who now infest the Trump administration.” Referring to them, but not naming them, in remarks to the National Committee for U.S.-China Relations in December, Freeman said that “some Americans nostalgic for the simplicities of the Cold War suffer from enemy deprivation syndrome. They are in earnest search of a hostile ideology against which to orient themselves and see China as the answer to their distress.”

Opinion: No trade deal can dictate our relationship with China / Washington Post

Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary:

Where we can mobilize international support, we should, of course, push China to live up to its trade obligations and seek to modify rules in the World Trade Organization where they do not cover problematic practices. But in reality, our competitive success over the next generation will depend much more on what happens in our economy and society than at any international negotiating table.

Building a better deal with China / CSIS

Dan Rosen and Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argue:

To the extent China wants a broad and extensive relationship [with the U.S.], it will need to make structural reforms to its economy… A deal based on a sliding-scale principle will require U.S. flexibility: if China is ready to reform, Washington must temper plans for permanent disengagement in favor of transitional safeguards instead.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


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

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief




  • Lifestyles of the newly rich and famous in their home village
    Tycoon’s US$1.8 million gift includes free chopper rides for villagers / SCMP
    Zhèng Dàqīng 郑大清, “the 60-year-old chairman of conglomerate Xinjiang Tiandi Group, flew into Dingziqiao in southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Thursday and spent several days meeting villagers and showering those aged 50 or more with gifts.”
    Xinjiang Tiandi Group, established in 1995, is, according to its LinkedIn page, “one of the well-known private enterprises in Xinjiang, a total of 16 wholly-owned subsidiaries,” and “engaged in the business, real estate, hotel services, telecommunications, food production and processing, biotechnology, and other non-ferrous metals exploration operations in many industries.” Its Chinese website is here.

  • Science-fiction movies
    China gets its first blockbuster sci-fi film / The Guardian
    “China has entered the cinematic space race. Wandering Earth (流浪地球 liúlàng dìqiú), the country’s first blockbuster sci-fi film, is on track to be one of the highest-grossing films in China’s history.”

  • The trials of Chinese New Year
    For LGBTQ+ women, Chinese New Year can be a burden / Radii China
    “Three years ago, on a warm evening in Agadir, Morocco, Yifan came out to her father. Yifan, 27, who identifies as a lesbian, had already come out to her mother via WeChat a few months prior, when she was overwhelmed and had nowhere else to turn. It did not go well.”

  • Lion dancing
    Going, going, gong: Why is lion dance dying in Singapore and Hong Kong, but roaring back to life in China? / SCMP
    “The lion dance has a storied history of more than 1,000 years and is a regular feature of Lunar New Year celebrations by the Chinese diaspora. But troupes are struggling to attract young talent, due in part to tough training regimes and parents who prioritize education over arts and sport,” whereas in China, lion dancing is being introduced into the curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

  • Romance video games
    “They’re more attractive than real boyfriends.” Inside the weird world of Chinese romance video games / Wired
    “In China, love and romance designed by women for women could be the next video game trend.”

  • Plastic surgery for teens
    A surgically sculpted face, the newest back-to-school necessity / Sixth Tone
    “Gengmei estimates that 22 million Chinese people underwent cosmetic surgery in 2018, and that 54 percent were under 28. Patients born after 2000 made up 8 percent, even though patients under 18 require their parents’ company and consent to undergo surgery.”
    Included in the article is this trio of pictures showing the transformation of one young Chinese named Chen Siqi, during high school, the summer of 2018, and January 2019:


Love in rural China: A series

In 2018, Clarinda Blais spent nine months living in Sanpi 伞陂, a small village in Huangchuan County, Henan, about 230 kilometers from Wuhan. She returned this year to spend Spring Festival with her host family and further explore a question: What is love in rural China? This five-part series looks at “love” and the way it manifests itself in five kinds of relationships. The first piece is about a 17-year-old high school senior, Fu Bingyu 福冰玉, and her mother.

Kuora: The most overlooked moments in 20th-century Chinese history

The rise of technocracy in China; Sino-U.S. strategic cooperation in the 1980s vis-à-vis the Soviet Union; the conservative, opposition reaction to reform and opening up; everything to do with warlords… There are many facets of 20th-century Chinese history that get short shrift in typical English-language history texts. Kaiser Kuo takes a look at several of them in this week’s Kuora.

Friday Song: Li Jian’s deep, sensitive folk-pop, ‘On the Shores of Lake Baikal’

This week’s song is by Li Jian 李健, a 44-year-old Harbin-born singer-songwriter. He started out as half of the duo Shui Mu Nian Hua before going solo in 2002. “On the Shores of Lake Baikal” (贝加尔湖畔), from Li’s 2011 album, Still, is one of his most famous and popular songs. Including a French accordion, it is more “Western” than most of his other works, but the result is startlingly universal.


Sinica Early Access: Introducing the Middle Earth podcast

This week, we’re proud to launch the Middle Earth podcast, which discusses China’s culture industry. In this debut episode on the Sinica Network, host Aladin Farré chats with three individuals who have all hit the big time and become internet celebrities in China: Erman, whose musings on love and relationships turned into a viral success and a full-time job; Ben Johnson, an Australian English teacher, whose short videos on cultural differences have attracted millions of views and 3 million followers; and Tang Yiqing, who started Juzi Video and has a venture-backed company with 30 million young fans. Learn their secrets for how to become a wanghong (网红 wǎnghóng; internet celebrity)!

Subscribe to Middle Earth on Apple Podcasts or Overcast, or plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcast app.

  • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.


New year, new face

A performer quickly swaps masks at the New York Chinese Cultural Center’s Lunar New Year Celebration at Brookfield Place on February 9, 2019. The technique, called bianlian (变脸 biànliǎn; literally, “change face”), is common in Sichuanese opera. GIF by Alex Urist.