Xinjiang, officially known as ‘Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region’, somehow exposed to the world as a place of ‘forced labour’, ‘forced sterilization’ and ‘suppression of indigenous minorities’. Western media propagate the allegation against China on ‘violation’ of human rights and ‘crime’ against humanity in this strategic important Autonomous Region. In fact, people outside China receive the news on that region through the western media. That news generates a general concept in our mind that though, China has progressed to a great extent in economy, education, science and technology, but attitude of Chinese authority towards other religious and ethnic people has not much changed. It may be mentioned that different scenario is seen in other Chinese areas like Lanzhou and Qiubei County. Through the YouTube videos presented by Travel Vlogger and YouTuber Trevor James and Laotai Arui we can visualize happy, prosperous and harmonious life of Chinese Muslims in those areas. Since mid-1980 I had the opportunity to be associated with many Chinese people, in particular Chinese aeronautical technicians, very closely. Since that period, a good number of technicians have been staying in Bangladesh. I also visited few cities of China for my official tours. Their humble behavior and warm hospitality overwhelmed me. Truly speaking, I have been expecting comprehensive information from Chinese authority on this burning issue to clear my dubious mind.
It was matter of appreciation that the Chinese authority made special effort to arrange a virtual briefing on Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with a noble objective to clarify general conception of the people on Xinjiang issues broadcasted in media. The briefing was conducted with the title ‘Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land’ on 19 March 2021 jointly by the China Embassy in Malaysia and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Authority. Representatives from Xinjiang, China Embassy in Malaysia and Malaysian Government, political parties, universities, think tanks and NGOs participated in the briefing. JKSM (Department of Syariah Judiciary of Malaysian Gov.), 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 the opportunity to attend the briefing on virtual platform to have a clear picture on Xinjiang situation. The virtual briefing was vibrant and the speakers enthusiastically accepted written questions from participating members.
Xinjiang, located in the north-western side of China, holds geo-political strategic importance. It has the border with eight countries namely 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 a home of various ethnic cultures and multiple religious communities. A considerable part of population follows Islam. It is also to be mentioned that Xinjiang is the core area on the Belt and Road Initiative.
For last few years the western world has been showing their concern on the ‘violation’ of human rights and committing ‘genocides’ by the Chinese authority at Xinjiang against Uygur ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Muslims. The media reports were prepared mainly based on the 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 sterilized’ which may be considered as ‘crime of genocide’. Further to those, question on ‘forced labour’ for harvesting the cotton have also been raised by the western media which can be termed as ‘violation’ of human rights.
In the virtual briefing the Chinese authority has given adequate information and statistics to invalidate the above mention allegations raised by the western media. The statistics show that from 2010 to 2018, the 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 mentioned period. It is learned that all mosques are provided with all utility services like water, electricity, natural gas, radio and television. It is also encouraging to note that since 1996, the government of Xinjiang has been arranging chartered flights to Saudi Arabia every year for the pilgrimages for performing holy Hajj. Special attention has been given to Xinjiang people, particularly to 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’ has been elaborately countered. A clear idea has been 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 question of ‘forced sterilization’, ‘forced labour’ and ‘suppression’ of Uygur Muslims might be a propaganda of western world to defame China’s emerging image.
In general, the briefing has provided the participants with all necessary information to understand the present situation in Xinjiang. The speakers have offered invitation to all to visit the beautiful land 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 understanding the real situation of Xinjiang.
M Humayun Kabir, a former Air vice Marshal of Bangladesh Air Force, and former Defense Adviser of the Bangladesh Government to 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org