Xinjiang: An In-Depth Analysis and Resource Compilation

Source

Based on a handful of think tank reports and witness testimonies, Western governments have levied false allegations of genocide and slavery in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A closer look makes clear that the politicization of China’s anti-terrorism policies in Xinjiang is another front of the U.S.-led hybrid war on China.

This resource compilation provides a starting point for critical inquiry into the historical context and international response to China’s policies in Xinjiang, providing a counter-perspective to misinformation that abounds in mainstream coverage of the autonomous region.


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction and Summary
  2. Timeline of Events
    1. 1989-2016
      1. Formation of the World Uyghur Congress (1989-2006)
      2. Violence and Unrest (2009-2016)
      3. Chinese Anti-Terrorism Policy and Context (2012-2016)
    2.  2017-present
      1. The Seeds of Controversy (2017-Aug 2018)
      2. Entrenching the Narratives (Aug 2018-Jan 2020)
      3. U.S. Pursues Unilateral Action (Jan 2020-present)
    3. On the Nature of Unsubstantiated Allegations
  3. Resources
    1. Overview
    2. Chinese Perspectives on the Problem of Terrorism
    3. Geopolitical Context
    4. Poverty Alleviation and Economic Development in Xinjiang
    5. Overview of Chinese Minority/Religious Policies
    6. The Misinformation Industrial Complex
    7. Views from Xinjiang: People, Cultures, and History

1. Introduction and Summary

In the mid-2010s, China launched far-reaching de-radicalization and economic development programs in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Before then, few casual Western observers were even aware of the province’s existence, which makes up 17% of China’s land and whose population consists of 65% ethnic minority peoples. Fewer still could speak to the autonomous region’s complex political, cultural, and religious history as well as to its complex legacies as a crossroads between diverse peoples over many centuries.

However, since 2018, Western media and state officials have put Chinese government policy in Xinjiang under intense scrutiny, citing just a handful of think tank reports and witness testimonies to lodge charges of forced labor, slavery, and genocide.       

Having saturated Western media, these charges are difficult to systematically refute. The situation on the ground is complex, and there are limits to what we can know. While we recognize that there are aspects of PRC policy in Xinjiang to critique, these critiques should be debated and resolved on Chinese terms and in Chinese dialogues, and not be used as crude ammunition in the U.S.-led geopolitical assault on China. Based on the history of Western atrocity propaganda, its funding sources, and the poor quality of the ‘research’ being pushed, we are skeptical that the U.S.—having engaged in two decades of perpetual war in Muslim-majority nations—has any legitimate moral interest or grounds on which to defend Muslim religious rights in Xinjiang. 

Moreover, given the history of PRC ethnic and religious minority policy, and the reports from first-hand delegations to Xinjiang from countries and organizations including Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and even the World Bank, neither genocide nor slavery accurately describe the realities of Xinjiang. It is not a coincidence that these accusations have ramped up during a period of unprecedented Western antagonism towards China. Instead, these unfounded claims serve primarily to build consensus for conflict, intervention, and war with China. 

The effectiveness of Western propaganda lies in its ability to render unthinkable any critique or alternative—to monopolize the production of knowledge and truth itself. In this context, it is important to note that the U.S. and its allies are in the minority when it comes to its critiques of Chinese policy in Xinjiang. At two separate convenings of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 and 2020, letters condemning Chinese conduct in Xinjiang were outvoted, 22-50 and 27-46. Many of those standing in support of Chinese policy in Xinjiang are Muslim-majority nations and/or nations that have waged campaigns against extremism on their own soil, including Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, and Nigeria. On the issue of Xinjiang, the clear break in consensus between the Global South and the U.S. bloc suggests that Western critiques of Xinjiang are primarily politically motivated. 

These resources are preceded by a timeline that focuses on the events preceding China’s Xinjiang de-radicalization program, the international responses it provoked, and other relevant contexts.       

This resource list is intended only for initial inquiry into the immediate controversy over China’s de-radicalization program in Xinjiang. In the spirit of seeking truth from facts, this resource does not offer definitive answers, nor is it comprehensive in scope. It aims only to be a starting point for critical inquiry, and we urge readers to seek a diversity of sources and form their own opinions. A more complete and nuanced view requires further study into the region’s history, China’s policies towards ethnic and religious minorities, and ongoing geopolitical developments.

Note: There are several ways to spell “Uygur” in English, including “Uygur,” “Uighur” and “Uyghur.” “Uyghur” is perhaps the most common in international settings, although “Uygur” is the official romanization by the Chinese government. We will use “Uyghur” in accordance with the common spelling in Western dialogue, except when referring specifically to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Similarly, the common Western spelling of “Kazakh” and “Kyrgyz” differs from the Chinese government’s official romanizations of “Kazak” and “Kirgiz.” We will similarly use the common Western spelling.


2. Timeline of Events

a. 1989-2016

From 1990-2016, China considered the terrorism problem to be particularly severe in Xinjiang. It is a period marked by immense difficulty and upheaval for China, unilateral U.S. military action throughout West Asia, and rapid Chinese economic growth.

i. Formation of the World Uyghur Congress (1989-2006)

➤ 1989 June 4 – The Tiananmen June 4th Incident, born of contradictions from market reform, inflamed by Gorbachev’s perestroika, and combined with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its fall on December 26, 1991, sparks a generational crisis in China. A wave of disillusioned students and upwardly-mobile young people leave China for the U.S. and other Western nations, with some receiving lavish attention and platforms as ‘dissidents’ who serve a strategic interest for U.S. ambitions vis-a-vis China.

  • Some of the most prominent Uyghur diaspora activist leaders today are as follows: Erkin Alptekin, Rushan Abbas, Dolkun Isa, Rebiya Kadeer, Omer Kanat, and Nury Turkel. Of these six, four arrived in the West on or after 1989 (Abbas 1989; Isa 1994; Turkel 1995; Kadeer 2005, as the cause célèbre of Turkel). Alptekin left around 1949 as part of the Guomindang’s defeat and Kanat left in 1971.  

➤ 1990 April 5 – Baren Township Riots, considered the first terrorist attack of a phase lasting till 2016 during which terrorism was considered a severe problem in Xinjiang. This is also the first attack China has attributed to the then East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), now Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) (ETIM/TIP). (see White Paper: The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang)

➤ 1996 November – The World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC) is established in Germany, with Omer Kanat and Dolkun Isa playing important roles. Both of them still hold high positions (Chairman of the Executive Committee and President, respectively) in the WUYC’s successor organization, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). Kanat apparently left China in 1971 to Afghanistan, then to Turkey in 1979, before moving to the United States in 1999; Isa left China in 1994. Kanat has served as the Senior Editor of Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service from 1999 to 2009.

➤ 1998 April – The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is founded. One of the people who played an important rule in its founding is Rushan Abbas, who would serve as Vice President for the UAA for two terms while also reporting for Radio Free Asia. Abbas arrived in the United States in 1989 and co-founded the United States’ first Uyghur association, the Uyghur Overseas Student and Scholars Association, in 1993.

  • Abbas would later serve the United States at Guantanamo as a linguist and a translator. This has caused some netizens to doubt her legitimacy to speak on human rights issues.

➤ 2001 June 15 – In the inaugural meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China identified the “three evils” (the Chinese term 三股势力 is more akin to the “three forces” or “three influences”) of extremism (极端主义), separatism (分裂主义), and terrorism (恐怖主义). It has since applied this framework to the terrorism problem in Xinjiang. (see The Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism)

➤ 2001 September 11 – The 9/11 attacks claim the lives of 2,977 people (excluding the perpetrators). In response, the United States begins to wage the “War on Terror” and engaged itself in combat in at least 24 countries. This war has displaced anywhere between 37 to 59 million, according to a recent report (September 2020) from Brown University. This report also notes that 801,000 have died as a direct result from combat, but “indirect deaths” may reach up to 3.1 million after a war that has lasted almost two decades. 

➤ 2002 September 11 – The United Nations registers the ETIM/TIP as a terrorist organization. As of 2020, the United States Department of State has still not classified the ETIM/TIP as a terrorist organization, although the Department of State designated ETIM/TIP under E.O. 13224 prohibiting transactions with “Persons Who Commit, Threaten To Commit, or Support Terrorism” on September 3, 2002.

➤ 2003 December 15 – China designates the ETIM/TIP, the WUYC, and two other organizations as terrorist organizations.

➤ 2004 April 16 – The WUC is founded in Munich, merging the East Turkestan National Congress and the WUYC. Its inaugural president is Erkin Alptekin, the son of Isa Yusuf Alptekin, a Guomindang affiliate who was virulently anti-communist (to the point that he largely opposed the Soviet-backed Second East Turkistan Republic) and violently opposed marriage between Hans and Uyghurs. Isa Alptekin remained active in Turkey after the Communist victory in China. 

  • Presumably around the same time, the Uyghur American Association founded the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) with a supporting grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The UHRP was co-founded by Nury Turkel, who arrived in the United States in 1995 and was appointed to be a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on May 26, 2020.
  • The NED has since boasted on May 29, 2020 that it “has awarded $8,758,300 to Uyghur groups since 2004, serving as the only institutional funder for Uyghur advocacy and human rights organizations.”
  • Erkin Alptekin himself is a longtime affiliate of the CIA, helping the CIA to build up “network of contacts with the Uighur separatist elements” in the 1970s and 1980s, and enjoying close relations with the 14th Dalai Lama. (see Raman, Bahukutumbi. “US & Terrorism in Xinjiang.” South Asia Analysis Group (Paper no. 499) (2002).)

➤ 2006 November 26 – Rebiya Kadeer is elected president of the WUC. Kadeer was sentenced to 8 years in prison for providing state information to foreign entities in 2000. This was after a career as a business owner, Vice-Chairwoman of the Xinjiang Federation of Industry and Commerce, Vice-Chairwoman of the Xinjiang Association of Women Entrepreneurs, and as a member of the 8th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. She was given leave on March 17th, 2005 to seek medical treatment in the United States on condition that she not engage in any subversive activities abroad.


ii. Violence and Unrest (2009-2016)

The extent of terrorist violence in China during this period is not well known in the West. Although there were many attacks between 1990 and 2016 and not all of the information is yet available, some high-profile attacks are as follows:

➤ 2009 July 5The Urumqi Riots, 197 killed, 1700 wounded. Chinese investigations allege that the riots were enflamed by foreign entities such as the WUC to undermine regional stability and unity. As an aside, due to Facebook’s failure to provide information to the Chinese government following the attacks, Western social media was banned from China.

➤ 2013 October 28 – Tiananmen Attack, 5 killed, 40 wounded. Usmen Hasan, along with his mother and wife, drives a jeep through a crowd at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before setting the vehicle on fire. Authorities find “extremist religious content” and a jihadi flag in the remains of the vehicle.

➤ 2014 March 1 – Kunming Train Station Attack, 31 killed, 141 wounded. Eight attackers burst into the city’s rail station, stabbing people at random before police arrive at the scene. Officials identify the leader of the group as Abdurehim Kurban, and state that insignias and flags worn by the attackers point to political involvement as “East Turkestan” separatists. The international community, including U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, joins China in denouncing the attack as an act of terrorism. 

➤ 2014 May 22 – Urumqi Attack, 39 killed and 94 injured as attackers drive two cars into a crowded marketplace and throw explosives towards surrounding buildings.

➤ 2014 July 30Assassination of Imam Jume Tahir at the Id Kah Mosque after morning prayers. Tahir was the practicing imam of Id Kah, China’s largest mosque, as well as a deputy to the National People’s Congress and vice president of the China Islamic Association. Tahir had called for peace and stability amidst rising violence in the region. (see also)

➤ 2016 September 6 – Kyrgyzstan’s state security service attributed the suicide bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek to the ETIM/TIP.


iii. Chinese Anti-Terrorism Policy and International Context (2012-2016)

➤ 2012 October 30 – Chinese officials announce that since May 2012, ETIM/TIP has been participating in the Syrian Civil War, which had started in early 2011. (Later Anadolu Agency report from 2014)

➤ 2014 May 25 – The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region issues a notification on “Striking Hard Against Terrorist Activities Within the Confines of the Law,” indicating a turn of attention towards the problem of terrorism in Xinjiang.

➤ 2015 – A “Turkish passport plot” (see Global Times report) is exposed in which Turkey provided false passports to Chinese nationals in third countries (usually Thailand & Malaysia) for passage to Turkey.

➤ 2015 January 1Shohrat Zakir, a CPC cadre of Uygur nationality, assumes his current position of Chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He additionally remains the Deputy Party Secretary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a position he has held since December 2014, and Secretary of the Party Group of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a position he has held since December 2013. This is in culmination of a decades-long career serving the CPC and Xinjiang, including serving on the Party Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) from December 2005 to June 2011.

➤ 2015 May 29 – China receives a loan from the World Bank on the “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project,” a five-year project lasting until April 30, 2020. It is the “fourth technical and vocational education and training project that the World Bank has supported in China since 2007.” This loan would be reviewed by the World Bank later on November 11, 2019. On March 31, 2019, it was reported that 113,880 students had enrolled in schools funded by this project, of which 40,413 were women and 65,015 were minorities.

➤ 2015 July – Thailand repatriates 109 Chinese nationals allegedly en route to Turkey to join terrorist groups in Syria. A few weeks later on August 17, 2015, terrorists detonated a bomb in Bangkok, claiming 20 lives. 2 Chinese nationals of the Uyghur nationality were charged. The prevailing theory is that it was in retaliation for the repatriation.

➤ Mid-2015 – The ETIM/TIP becomes settled in Idlib Province, Syria, particularly in the city of Jisr al-Shughur, near the border with Turkey. The ETIM/TIP occupation of Jisr al-Shughur is marked by “changing demographics” (p. 15) and sectarian violence.

➤ 2015 October – France begins operating “de-radicalization programs.” It would seem these programs have since garnered mostly criticism from the public, but mainstream Western discourse has not accused France of cultural genocide.

  • While France’s de-radicalization program largely attracted controversy, programs like Denmark’s preceding France’s mostly went unnoticed, even being praised as a “groundbreaking de-radicalization program focused on providing opportunity to reintegrate versus punishment.”
  • A year later in October 2016, the United Kingdom began the “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” aimed at “address[ing] the root causes of terrorism, build resilience, and contribute towards the deradicalisation of individuals.”
  • New York Times reported on Kazakhstan’s de-radicalization program on August 10, 2019.

➤ 2015 December 27 – The 12th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passes the “Anti-Terrorism Law” (Chinese-language text), the first of its kind in the country.

➤ 2016 Chen Quanguo is appointed the Party Secretary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the First Commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (The First Commissar of XPCC is always held by the Party Secretary of Xinjiang). As his previous tenure from 2011 to 2016 was as the Party Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region, Western NGOs cite Chen’s influence for alleged increase in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. A year later in 2017, Chen would be appointed a seat in the Politburo while retaining his two posts.

➤ 2016 December 23 – Adrian Zenz begins his career pivot to Xinjiang after a brief focus on Tibetan language and culture (and born-again Christian writings) with a Foreign Affairs article about Xinjiang’s police and surveillance apparatus.


b. 2017-Present

The waning of the severity of extremist violence in Xinjiang by 2017 coincided with elevated antagonisms in the U.S.-China relationship. The Trump Administration’s inaugural National Security Strategy document identified China as a strategic threat to U.S. power, setting the stage for ongoing trade, tech, and ideological attacks on China. During this time, the U.S. raised the issue of Xinjiang in international bodies and federal legislation as part of its efforts to isolate China on the world stage.

i. The Seeds of Controversy (2017-Aug 2018)

➤ 2017 March 6 – President Donald Trump signs Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” or “Travel Ban 2.0,” superseding EO 13769 issued on January 27, 2017. It originally banned the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—all Muslim-majority countries. This was all done quickly after President Trump assumed his post on January 20, 2017, after fervently advocating a “Muslim Ban” during his candidacy (see J. Sotomayor’s dissent in Trump v. Hawaii). 

➤ 2017 March 14 – Zenz joins the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief and continues his pivot to Xinjiang, initially focusing on the securitization of Xinjiang. (2017-3-14 Article, 2017-9-21 Article, 2018-3-12 Article) Interestingly, Adrian Zenz’s March 14th, 2017 article was considered a “fair assessment,” if biased, by Ian Goodrum, writer and digital editor for China Daily, indicating that there may have been a time Adrian Zenz did not feel as clearly “led by God” on a mission against China, as he indicated on May 21, 2019.

➤ 2017 March 29 – The 12th Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region passes the “Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations” (Chinese-language text). Contemporary mainstream media’s focused criticisms on the “ban on long beards, veils” (Al-Jazeera) articulated in Article 9 of the original Regulations and not on Article 14, which outlined education and psychological counseling as part of de-radicalization work. 

➤ 2017 May 11 – Syrian ambassador tells China that up to 5000 ethnic Uyghurs were fighting in various militant groups in Syria.

➤ 2017 June 1 – China releases the white paper “Human Rights in Xinjiang – Development and Progress.”

➤ 2017 August 1 – WUC begins activism and writing on “internment camps,” citing April and May as the first months of detainment of Uyghur citizens. Sporadic reporting include: 

  • September 10, 2017 Human Rights Watch report alleging “thousands” of detainees. Interestingly, Human Rights Watch reported that “State media in Xinjiang, including the Xinjiang Daily, have reported on these facilities,” which would seem to contradict Reuters’ later 2018 headline that the facilities were “secret.” 
  • January 22, 2018 Radio Free Asia report claims “around 120,000” detainees based on information provided by an anonymous source from Chasa Township (possibly 恰萨美其特乡)
  • February 28, 2018 Foreign Policy article by a “Special Correspondent” on “A Summer Vacation in China’s Muslim Gulag.”
  • March 13, 2018 Newsweek Japan article (Japanese-language) by Naoko Mizutani (Japanese researcher previously barred from China for her support of Rebiya Kadeer) reporting “890,000 or more” detainees based on an unverified “leak” by Istiqlal TV (Uyghur-language, “leaked information” at 3:14), a Turkey-based media platform advocating for separatism from China. Also runs the English-language Turkistan Times.
    • As an aside, Rebiya Kadeer has also previously visited the Yasukuni Shrine on May 14th, 2012. The Yasukuni Shrine honors, among others, 1068 war criminals, including 14 Class A war criminals, as ruled by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

➤ 2017 September – Presumably around this time, Rushan Abbas founds the Campaign for Uyghurs.

  • On November 12, 2017, Dolkun Isa takes Rebiya Kadeer’s place as President of the World Uyghur Congress. Although Kadeer said, “It is time for the younger generation to take up the leadership role at the WUC,” Isa seems to have been involved in diaspora Uyghur organizations longer than she has, at least overtly (since at least 1996 for Isa and since at least 2005 for Kadeer). 
  • Similarly, Omer Kanat sometime in 2017 took up both the Chairman of the World Uyghur Congress Executive Committee and Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

➤ 2018 April 26 – Mike Pompeo, former Director of the CIA and notoriously proud of lying, cheating, and stealing, assumes office as Secretary of State, heralding a new era of rapidly deteriorating U.S.-China relations.

  • Prior to assuming the post of the United States’ foremost diplomat, Pompeo had a long and distinguished history of being a relentless Islamophobe. Among other instances, he declared that “silence [in condemning the 2013 Boston bombings] has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit.”

➤ 2018 May 15 – Zenz starts to fix his eyes on Xinjiang’s de-radicalization program and criticizes education as de-radicalization work authorized by Article 14 of the Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations. Between “several hundred thousand and just over one million” detainees are “estimate[d]” from “information from various sources…”, citing specifically Naoko Mizutani’s Newsweek Japan article.

➤ 2018 May 29 – The United States Department of State, Office of International Religious Freedom releases the 2017 Report on International Religious Freedom. Its report on China raises concerns that “human rights groups and others reported hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims… forcibly sent to re-education camps…”

➤ 2018 August 3 – Chinese Human Rights Defenders publishes a report “China: Massive Numbers of Uyghurs & Other Ethnic Minorities Forced into Re-education Programs.” This is the report taking eight anonymous interviewees and extrapolating 1 million incarcerated (or even up to 3 million) from their unverified statements.


ii. Entrenching the Narratives (Aug 2018-Jan 2020)

➤ 2018 August 10 – Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is here that Gay McDougall alleged concentration camps, forcing the controversy over the de-radicalization program in general, and the vocational centers in particular, into wide public discourse for the first time. (press release, 2018-8-13)

  • Reuters on the same day erroneously reported it as “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” Most news outlets failed to clarify that the UN CERD—let alone a sole committee member thereof—cannot speak for the UN; Gay McDougall said she had credible reports but failed to cite them.
    • Grayzone rebuttal by Ben Norton & Ajit Singh
  • The Press release actually reads: “Committee Experts, in the dialogue that followed, congratulated China for creating extraordinary prosperity and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in the eight multi-ethnic provinces and regions, but remain concerned over the growing inequality, particularly for ethnic minorities who continued to disproportionately experience poverty… A great source of concern was racial discrimination in the context of laws fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, particularly against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other ethnic minorities.” (As it turns out, Gay McDougall was both the only American at the meeting and the only person at the meeting to bring up “internment camps”)

➤ 2018 August 20 – While being interviewed by Max Blumenthal from the Grayzone, Omer Kanat admits that the “one million” figure was from “Western media estimates.” 

➤ 2018 September 6 – Adrian Zenz publishes “Thoroughly Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude: China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang” in the Central Asian Survey, a peer-reviewed article version of Zenz’s May 15, 2018 report. In it, Zenz clarifies the sources for his estimate of “approx. 1,060,000”: Naoko Mizutani’s Newsweek Japan article and Radio Free Asia.

➤ 2018 October 9 – The 13th Standing Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region People’s Congress amends the “Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations” (amended Chinese text here) to expressly outline vocational education as a central strategy for de-radicalization work (Global Times report, SCMP report) (Relevant changes: Article 14 amended; Articles 17, 21, 33 added).

  • It is important to note that vocational education is not unique to Xinjiang. For instance, the Ministry of Education reported in 2015 that 7.25 million adult students were undergoing non-academic degree higher education, while the Ministry reported in 2018 that 11.3 million students were registered in vocational colleges. The white paper “Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang” provides further that from 2014 to 2019 “Xinjiang provided training sessions [vocational education] to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers [annually], of which 451,400 were in southern Xinjiang.” This 1.29 million figure here is for all vocational education, not just persons who undergo vocational education as a part of the de-radicalization program.

➤ 2018 November 1 – The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) publishes “Mapping Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps,” a report analyzing satellite imagery. Mainly, ASPI analyzes “28 facilities,” but alleges 181 (Agence France-Presse) or “as many as 1,200” (Adrian Zenz) such facilities, although an examination of their cited sources reveals no evidentiary basis for such allegations. (Note: ASPI is primarily funded by the Australian government and maintains strong funding relationships with weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin)

➤ 2018 November 15 – China releases the white paper “Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang.”

➤ 2018 December 19 – Relying on ASPI personnel and witnesses, AP condemns Hetian Taida Apparel for using “forced labor” due to its public association with a vocational training program, which AP insinuated were “concentration camps.” The Hetian Taida Apparel ordeal is the birth of the “forced labor” allegations in the current controversy. 

➤ 2018 December 28-30 – Diplomats from 12 countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Kuwait) visit Xinjiang. Pakistani diplomat Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reported that the delegation was given full and open access to three vocational centers and that she “did not find any instance of forced labor or cultural and religious repression” during her tours of the region.

➤ 2019 January 6 – Reuters visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 January 9-16 – A media group of 12 representatives from 6 countries (Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 January 22 – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation announces its one-week-long visit to China. This is presumably the visit on which the later OIC resolution is based.

➤ 2019 January 25-31 – A media delegation from Egypt visits Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 February 16-19 – Senior diplomats from the permanent missions of eight countries to the United Nations Office at Geneva visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 February 22-27 – A group of 11 journalists from Indonesia and Malaysia, as part of the ASEAN Elites China Tour 2019, visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 February 25-27 – Around 200 representatives of 50 political parties from nearly 30 countries visit Urumqi Xinjiang for a meeting aimed at showcasing China’s ethnic policy in Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 February 28-March 2 – Diplomats from Myanmar, Algeria, Morocco, Vietnam, Hungary, Greece, Singapore and the mission of the League of Arab States visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 March 1-2 – 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Resolutions on Muslim Communities and Muslim Minorities in the Non-OIC Member States (OIC/CFM-46/2019/MM/RES/FINAL), ¶20 of Resolution No.1/46-MM [pg.5] (“… commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens…”).

➤ 2019 March 18 – China releases the white paper “The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang.” A transfer employment program for 100,000 people was mentioned and would presumably be the object of consternation in the ASPI report of March 2020 alleging slavery.

  • CGTN summary with some infographics

➤ 2019 March 25 – The European Union rejects China’s offer of Xinjiang tour, but says it is open to one later. The EU would sit on its rain check for 539 days before once again demanding “independent” investigations into Xinjiang on September 14, 2020, despite the nearly 1,000 personnel from diplomatic, media, and academic circles who were invited to visit Xinjiang in 2019. 

➤ 2019 March 27-29 – Milan Bacevic, Serbian Ambassador to China, and Selim Belortaja, Albanian Ambassador to China, visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 May 7 – NPR releases its report on its visit to a vocational center.

➤ 2019 May 10 – Val Thompson, founder and publisher of International Focus Magazine – Houston, writes on his experiences visiting Xinjiang. He states that in his group of media visitors were journalists from “Afghanistan, Egypt, Belgium, Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Japan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, UAE, USA, Switzerland, and a Geneva Delegation.”

➤ 2019 June 15 – Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov visits Xinjiang and reaches a “broad consensus” with China on the issue of counter-terrorism.

➤ 2019 June 18 – BBC’s visit to a vocational center.

➤ 2019 June 18-21 – Diplomats from 14 countries (including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Laos, Malaysia, Nigeria, Serbia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Togo) and a representative from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation based in Geneva visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 July 1 – Hong Kong protestors storm and vandalize the Legislative Council. It would appear that Western media would spend most of the remaining summer fixated on Hong Kong.

➤ 2019 July 8, 12 – 41st Session of the Human Rights Council. Two joint letters took opposing views of China’s conduct in Xinjiang.

  • A/HRC/41/G/11 [criticizing] – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom [22]
  • A/HRC/41/G/17 [supporting] – Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Kuwait, Laos, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Palestine [50]

➤ 2019 July 12 – Adrian Zenz pushes the “forced labor” angle with his paper, “Beyond the Camps: Beijing’s Grand Scheme of Forced Labor, Poverty Alleviation and Social Control in Xinjiang,” which would not get peer-reviewed until its publication in the Journal of Political Risk (a journal with a long history of involvement with U.S. military and intelligence) on December 10, 2019. Zenz relies on scaremongering about China’s poverty alleviation programs and pair assistance programs (whereby a richer province gives monetary and other material aid to poorer provinces, manifesting in factories or educational support) to draw foregone conclusions of forced labor. One such poverty alleviation workshop mentioned in Zenz’s report can be seen in this vlogger’s video.

➤ 2019 July 14-22 – Journalists from 24 countries including India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Uzbekistan visit Xinjiang.

  • One of the journalists on this trip was Tunç Akkoç, General Manager of Turkey’s Aydınlık Daily (newspaper of Turkey’s Vatan Partisi). His report published on Xinhua is as follows. (2019-8-11)
  • Aydınlık Daily and Vatan Partisi have since rebuked the United States’ position in the controversy (Aydınlık 2020-2-21, Vatan Partisi’s statement reported in Aydınlık 2020-9-10 [Turkish language]).

➤ 2019 July 21 – China releases the white paper “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang.”

➤ 2019 August 17 – China releases the white paper “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang” (this is the white paper that states that “No terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started.”). 

➤ 2019 August 17-23 – A media group from 16 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 August 19-21 – Diplomats from Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Nigeria visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 August 28-September 1 – Diplomats from Yemen, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 August 29 – ABC’s visit to the vocational centers.

➤ 2019 September 9-12 – Diplomats from 16 African countries (including Burundi, Djibouti, Uganda, Lesotho, Sudan and Zimbabwe) and the African Union visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 October 17 – Amy K. Lehr & Mariefaye Bechrakis from Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) publish “Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang: Forced Labor, Forced Assimilation, and Western Supply Chains.” Noticeably, in the interceding 10 months since the Hetian Taida Apparel report, the researchers do not have another “‘smoking gun’ for forced labor in Xinjiang,” and are left with witness testimonies and Zenzian logic that vocational training and rural poverty alleviation carries “a significant risk that in many cases the detainees and rural poor are not participating by choice,” without anything to back up that assertion.

  • Global Times 10/25 rebuttal

➤ 2019 October 29 – 74th Session of the General Assembly (A/C.3/74/SR.37).

  • Total 24 countries and the European Union criticized China’s position on Xinjiang
    • ¶41 – United Kingdom joint statement on behalf of itself, Albania, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States
    • Represented in joint statement and criticized in individual capacity: United States (¶43)
    • Criticized in individual capacity: European Union (¶58), Turkey (¶45)
  • Total 57 countries supported China’s position on Xinjiang
    • ¶40 – Belarus joint statement on behalf of itself, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Laos, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Palestine
    • Represented in joint statement and supported in individual capacity: Bolivia (¶56), Burundi (¶52), Cambodia (¶49), Cameroon (¶48), China (¶66), Cuba (¶53), Congo (Republic of) (¶77), Equatorial Guinea (¶60), Guinea (¶70), Laos (¶76), Myanmar (¶61), Nicaragua (¶64), Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of) (¶73), Pakistan (¶68), Syria (¶55), Zimbabwe (¶57)
    • Supported in individual capacity: Ethiopia (¶72), Kyrgyzstan (¶59), Saudi Arabia (¶75 – note: qualified support)

➤ 2019 November – Sometime in November, Former Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives Fahri Hamzah led a delegation to visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2019 November 11 – World Bank releases a statement regarding its visit to Xinjiang concerning the vocational centers, finding no aberrations.

➤ 2019 November 16 – New York Times publishes a story about “leaked documents” concerning Xinjiang. These documents had strange grammatical errors and have been disavowed as false.

➤ 2019 December 5 – CGTN releases two specials about terrorism in Xinjiang, with footage never released to the public before, including footage of the above-mentioned attacks. They were made available to YouTube on December 11th. 

➤ 2019 December 9 – Xinhua reports that students “participating in education and training programs of standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills and deradicalization at vocational education and training centers” have all graduated.

By the end of 2019 – 

  • Nearly 1,000 personnel from diplomatic, media, and academic circles were invited to visit Xinjiang in 2019. 
  • Xinjiang received more than 200 million tourists in 2019, up 41.6% from 2018’s 150 million.
  • From 2014 to 2019, nearly 2,923,200 residents of Xinjiang constituting 737,000 households were lifted out of poverty, dropping the poverty rate from 2013’s 19.4% to 1.24%. (original Chinese editorial, English summary) 645,000 were lifted out of poverty in 2019 alone. Xinjiang must still lift another 165,000 people out of poverty to meet China’s 2020 goals for poverty alleviation. (see CGTN report)

iii. U.S. Pursues Unilateral Action (Jan 2020-present)

➤ 2020 January 23 – Having confirmed human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 in tandem with the World Health Organization, China locks down Wuhan City and later the entire Hubei Province. While still pushing the Xinjiang issue, Western media became fixated on the pandemic response, seizing on human suffering to push a political and often racist agenda.

➤ 2020 February – Adrian Zenz publishes a report about the “Karakax List” in the Journal of Political Risk, supposedly a leaked document from 2017 provided by the Uyghur Human Rights Project proving collection of information about 3,000 Uyghurs and detention of 311 of them in Karakax (Moyu) County.

➤ 2020 March 1 – ASPI publishes “Uyghurs for sale,” a report alleging forced labor (and, notably, “slavery”) of Uyghur people around China. This seems to be scrutinizing the transfer employment program from an earlier Chinese white paper. It also builds on the material previously pushed by Adrian Zenz and CSIS. 

  • 2020 March 26 Grayzone rebuttal by Ajit Singh. Global Times 3/1, 3/16 rebuttals.

➤ 2020 April 4 – China holds a national mourning ceremony for the victims and first responders of COVID-19. China’s ability to contain COVID comes in sharp contrast to the United States, which declared a state of emergency on March 13th and has since watched its situation worsen significantly. The United States accelerates escalation of tensions with China.

➤ 2020 June 17 – President Trump signs the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law, ending a process started after it was first passed as a bill by the Senate on September 11, 2019.

➤ 2020 June 18 – CGTN releases another special about terrorism in Xinjiang, Tianshan: Still Standing

➤ 2020 June 29 – Adrian Zenz publishes a report alleging mass sterilization of Uyghur people through the Jamestown Foundation. This report has a blatant mathematical error

➤ 2020 July – 44th UN Human Rights Council meeting, in which two joint statements took opposing sides as to China’s conduct in Xinjiang

  • [criticizing] (2020-6-30) – United Kingdom on behalf of itself, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland [27]
  • [supporting] (2020-7-1) – Belarus on behalf of itself, Bahrain, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, China, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Laos, Lesotho, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe [46]
  • The criticizing statement also attacked China’s sovereignty on Hong Kong, leading to a same-day joint statement on Hong Kong made by Cuba on behalf of 53 countries.

2020 July 6 – The Washington Post editorial board publishes the opinion piece, “What’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide,” marking the rapid escalation of allegations. The opinion references “new evidence” of forced sterilizations, but cites only Adrian Zenz’s June 2020 report for the Jamestown Foundation and an Associated Press “investigative report” which similarly relies on Zenz’s research.

➤ 2020 July 16 – An Urumqi resident is found to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 (Chinese source), leading to an identified COVID-19 cluster in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which had until then seen minimal cases since January 25. However, China’s efforts to combat COVID in Xinjiang go largely unreported.

  • As an aside, photos from February 19, 2020 show doctors, police, and border guards on horseback on snowy Kurte (Ku’erte) Plains (near the border with Mongolia), Fuyun County, Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Business Insider and People’s Daily Wechat Post). This demonstrates the extent of China’s COVID response, as officials made sure every person was provided for, in this case agro-pastoral citizens in border regions. 

➤ 2020 July 24 – In response to the United States ordering the Chinese Consulate in Houston to close, China ordered the United States Consulate in Chengdu to close. Radio Free Asia among others speculated that this would stymie United States intelligence gathering on Xinjiang.

➤ 2020 July 30 – Amy K. Lehr of CSIS publishes a brief “Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda.” Particularly noticeable about this brief is its emphasis on the XPCC, with assertions cited backed up by sources from Radio Free Asia, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Citizen Power Initiatives for China (an otherwise opaque organization based in Brookline, Massachusetts founded by Yang Jianli, a self-described “Tiananmen survivor”). Footnote 33 cites Bao Yajun’s article on the XPCC but misrepresents the source, which does not mention labor camps as Lehr asserts.

➤ 2020 July 31 – The United States imposes Global Magnitsky sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps over accusations that it is connected to human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions include Chen Quanguo, the first Politburo member to be sanctioned by the United States. 

➤ 2020 July 30 and August 7 – Coda Story—a self-described counterweight to Russian and Chinese “disinformation” funded by the U.S. and EU—runs two pieces seeking to undermine The Grayzone, Jerry Grey, and Carl Zha, some of the few Western sources to contradict the mainstream media narrative on Xinjiang. 

  • The Grayzone’s rebuttal by Ben Norton (8/18).

➤ 2020 August 15-16Carl Zha and Daniel Dumbrill both release interviews held with Arslan Hidayat, an activist noted for spreading many lies about Xinjiang by faking captions and taking Douyin and other videos out of context on social media (see this Twitter thread, which also exposes similar lies made by CJ Werlemen, who would shortly afterwards write an article alleging 9 million incarcerated in Xinjiang). Among other happenings, Hidayat admits to putting fake captions on videos he posts as well as to having no hard evidence for his claims, instead relying on mainstream media and “scholars” like Adrian Zenz. Hidayat also displays a seeming ignorance of the general contours of Xinjiang history and its people.

➤ 2020 August 17 – Radio Free Asia reports that Xinjiang hospital kills babies, relying on witnesses and Adrian Zenz’s mathematically suspect June 29 report.

➤ 2020 August 24 – CJ Werlemen at Byline Times reports “evidence that up to nine million Uyghurs are unaccounted for and allegations Chinese authorities plan to kill, incarcerate or convert the whole population.” His only source is Dr. Erkin Sidick, President of the Uyghur Projects Foundation and senior advisor to the World Uyghur Congress, who left China in the late 1980s and whose own sources are ever reliable anonymous Chinese government sources. The report also cites Zenz’s mathematically suspect June 29, 2020 report and the NYT’s November 16, 2019 grammatically wanting “leaks” to back up Dr. Sidick’s otherwise baseless allegations. Near the end of the article, Dr. Sidick decides to liberally tamper with the statistics to prove his own foregone conclusions.

➤ 2020 August 25 – CGTN releases a new documentary collecting the experiences of students of the vocational centers, Lies and truth: Vocational education and training in Xinjiang.

➤ 2020 August 27 – Buzzfeed, backed by ASPI and Open Technology Fund (part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which runs Radio Free Asia, and a key supporter of 2019 Hong Kong riots) among others, pushes a two-part report relying satellite imagery, blanked-out images on Baidu Maps which are otherwise common occurrences, and witness testimony to further the Western narrative on Xinjiang. One such “camp” is in actuality an apartment complex with a five-star rating.

➤ 2020 September 2 – After about a month and a half, the COVID-19 cluster in Xinjiang is contained and Urumqi’s lockdown is lifted.

➤ 2020 September 9 – The U.S. State Department creates a new page just for propagandizing “CCP”’s atrocities in Xinjiang, in addition to releasing a short condemnatory video. Neither add anything new. The webpage relies on “recent, documented evidence” for “forced population control,” presumably Adrian Zenz’s mathematically suspect June 29 report; “NGO estimates and media reports” for “forced labor,” presumably ASPI’s and CSIS’ scare pieces; and unsubstantiated nonsense such as “CCP target[ing]… Uyghur language and Uyghur music.”

➤ 2020 September 14 – The United States restricts cotton and apparel imports from Xinjiang, citing “forced labor.” Both cotton and apparel industries are important to poverty alleviation and economic development in Xinjiang.

➤ 2020 September 15 – China agrees to and will arrange for European Union diplomats in China to visit Xinjiang.

➤ 2020 September 17 – China releases the white paper “Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang.” Some actors have twisted the white paper’s statistics (“Every year from 2014 to 2019 Xinjiang provided training sessions to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers, of which 451,400 were in southern Xinjiang”) to allege that China admitted to interning “8 million” into camps (presumably 1.29 x 6 = 7.74 for the headlining “8 million”). It bears repeating that this figure includes normal vocational education as well as those educated in institutions funded by the 2015 World Bank project. To date, the Chinese government has not released a figure on the number of people who have undergone vocational education as part of its de-radicalization program.

  • The relevant statistics in the original Chinese reads as follow: 据统计,2014年至2019年,全疆年均培训城乡各类劳动者128.8万人次,其中,南疆地区年均培训45.14万人次。

2020 September 22 – The U.S. Congress passes the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” authorizing sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and any other Xinjiang entity as determined by the discretion of the Department of Commerce. It expressly targets China’s poverty alleviation and pair-assistance programs designed to develop Xinjiang and bring residents out of absolute poverty. For more about the genocidal impact of U.S. sanctions as a form of economic warfare primarily targeting civilians, see Robin Davis, Onyesonwu Chatoyer, & Nancy Wright, “Sanctions Kill: The Devastating Human Cost of Sanctions,” Hood Communist (blog), March 26, 2020.

2020 September 23 – ASPI launches a “Xinjiang Data Project” (reportedly mapping “380 sites of suspected re-education camps, detention centres and prisons that have been built or expanded since 2017”) with an accompanying report on “Cultural erasure.” The former in particular has been heavily criticized online for designating common schools and offices as concentration camps and listing the renovated Keriya Aitika Mosque as demolished.


c. On the Nature of Unsubstantiated Allegations

The World Uyghur Congress began conducting activism based on the allegation of Xinjiang “concentration camps” in August 2017, four months after the promulgation of the Xinjiang De-radicalization Regulations. The controversy entered mainstream Western discourse a year later in August 2018 with Gay McDougall’s unsubstantiated claims at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

In the interceding time, claims of concentration camps, cultural genocide, demographic genocide, slavery, and mass sterilization have saturated media and political discourse. The evidentiary weakness of these rapidly escalating claims is evinced by the shifting numbers of alleged detainees, which has ebbed and flowed from 120,000 on the low end to up to 9 million out of a Uyghur population of roughly 12 million (2019).

While Western media often paints Xinjiang as a black box, Xinjiang has in fact never been closed or restricted to outside visitors until the outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2020 (unlike Tibet Autonomous Region, which requires most foreigners to acquire special permits to visit). Indeed despite the nearly 1,000 visits by outside observers and 200 million tourists to Xinjiang in 2019, no convincing photo or video evidence has emerged of supposed genocide in Xinjiang, much less the complete absence of any recent refugee crisis originating from Xinjiang.

Photos and videos fallaciously used to prove, show, or insinuate either concentration camps or slave labor of Xinjiang people include:

It is clear that the burden of evidence for disproving allegations of slavery and genocide in Xinjiang has been set far higher than the burden of evidence for lodging these allegations in the first place. With the popular imagination saturated with images of alleged atrocities, it is difficult to argue for any course of U.S. action other than sanctions, isolation, and intervention. Such is the nature, by intent, of atrocity propaganda as it has been wielded to justify U.S. imperial adventurism. If nothing else, the context and evidence provided in this timeline should make clear that spurious claims based on weak evidence have been wielded unilaterally by the U.S. and its allies to spurn China despite broad international approval for Chinese policy in Xinjiang.


3. Resources

a. Overview

These readings are general overviews of Xinjiang in general and the current controversy in particular. They can act as effective one-stop resources for those seeking a quick summary.  

Ang, Matthias & Wong, Kayla. “Different media report differently on controversial Xinjiang re-education camps in China. Read them all.”, Mothership, July 21, 2019.

  • Ang and Wong offer an even-handed survey of the biases and conflicting diagnoses of different news reports on the Xinjiang controversy. The authors don’t try to take a side but advocate seeking a diversity of sources. 

Kanthan, Chris. “Xinjiang and Uyghurs – What You’re Not Being Told,” World Affairs Blog (blog).

  • A quick collection of facts about key cultural, historical, and political aspects of Xinjiang.

Notes on China-Uighur Controversies: An Ever Increasing Collection of Notes, Links, Sources, & Observations

  • A well-sourced and extensive ongoing Google Document written by a leftist in critical evaluation of the Xinjiang controversy.

Singh, Ajit & Max Blumenthal. “China detaining millions of Uyghurs? Serious problems with claims by US-backed NGO and far-reach researcher ‘led by God’ against Beijing.” The Grayzone. December 21, 2019.

  • A rather thorough examination of the handful of sources from which claims of ‘millions’ in concentration camps has been uncritically adopted by mainstream media. The argument focuses on the personal records and financial ties of frequently-cited ‘experts’ such as Adrian Zenz. 

Zhao, He. “Xinjiang: Facts vs. Fiction.” Medium. November 16, 2019.

  • This is perhaps the quickest yet comprehensive read on Xinjiang generally and the current controversy in particular. 

b. Chinese Perspectives on the Problem of Terrorism

These sources document the scope and extent of the recent history of terrorism in China, which received little attention in the Western press. These sources also highlight official Chinese perspectives on how to resolve the problem as peacefully as possible. China’s stated policies of economic development and poverty alleviation are key pathways towards improving social stability and tackling some of the root causes that foment violence—an approach that stands in stark contrast to the tactics employed during the U.S. so-called “War on Terror.” 

It is important to note that Western reports and figures have failed to differentiate between generalized vocational education in Xinjiang—which is an aspect of poverty alleviation programs throughout China—and vocational education as part of targeted de-radicalization programs.

CGTN. “Fighting terrorism in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 50:01. December 11, 2019.

  • CW: Violence. This documentary in particular is notable for releasing previously unreleased footage of terrorist attacks as well as extensive interviews with a wide variety of people including victims, former terrorists, religious authorities, locals, and police. [some of the interviewees speak in Uyghur]

CGTN. “The Black Hand – ETIM and Terrorism in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 29:06. December 11, 2019.

  • CW: Violence. This documentary shares some footage with the above, but otherwise is a shorter film focused more on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM/TIP), its links to al- Qaeda, and the international nature of the threat it poses. [some of the interviewees speak in Uyghur]

CGTN. “Tianshan: Still Standing – Memories of fighting terrorism in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 57:52. June 18, 2020.

  • CW: Violence. This documentary revisits the lingering impacts of terrorism in today’s Xinjiang. Some highlights include the revisiting of Dilqemer’s story from the “Fighting terrorism” documentary; new interviews with police and locals such as Memet Jume, son of former Id Kah imam Jume Tahir assassinated in 2014, and Muhpira Rahman, a female People’s Armed Police member; and exclusive looks at Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County and the Chinese-Afghan border. [some of the interviewees speak in Uyghur; the interviewee Memetrehim Ibrahim speaks in Sarikoli] 

CGTN. “Lies and truth: Vocational education and training in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 35:08. August 25, 2020.

  • CW: Violence. This documentary focuses on vocational centers and their students. There is some overlap with the “Embracing a New Life” mini-series (see below), particularly in the stories of the painter Ablizkari Ubul and dancer Aqida Arslan. Has a short section near the end containing comments by international observers to Xinjiang. [some of the interviewees speak in Uyghur]

Why are western media silent on China’s documentaries on Xinjiang?CGTN. December 9, 2019. (Based on Tong, Li. “CGTN发“大尺度”新疆反恐纪录片,西方媒体却沉默了.” Guancha. December 9, 2019.)

  • From a Chinese perspective, this article questions why Western voices which claim to value human rights have not paid heed to issues of violence and terrorism directed against civilians in Xinjiang and beyond. 

Joint Letter to Mike Pompeo, From Scholars and Religious Personnel in Xinjiang.” Tianshan Net. July 19, 2019.

  • A letter from about 100 scholars and religious personnel in Xinjiang rebuking comments made by Secretary Pompeo.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang. 2019. 

  • A white paper concerning the broader strategy against terrorism undertaken in Xinjiang.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang. 2019.

  • A white paper focusing specifically on the vocational centers and their operations.

Sha, Yuan. “China’s contribution to the international counter-terrorism cause.” CGTN. September 26, 2019.

  • Paraphrasing remarks made by Wang Yi at the UN – clearly identifying poverty as a root cause of terrorism.

Ed. Xiang, Bo. “Full transcript: Interview with Xinjiang government chief on counterterrorism, vocational education and training in Xinjiang.” Xinhua. October 16, 2018. 

  • Xinhua interview with Shohrat Zakir, Chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, concerning the roots of terrorism, poverty alleviation and education as solution, and the vocational centers.

c. Geopolitical Context

These sources place the current controversy in light of geopolitical interests. In particular, the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive Chinese-led multi-national infrastructure project that has drawn ire as a threat to U.S. unipolarity, runs through Xinjiang as a strategic region connecting China to North and West Asia.

While the U.S. has long recognized that its naval supremacy in the South China Sea could effectively “strangle” China’s economy in the event of hot war, Xinjiang in particular and the Belt and Road Initiative in general provide an overland route for Chinese trade which undermines U.S. military supremacy. As such, these sources contextualize the Xinjiang controversy amidst broader U.S. efforts to contain and isolate China.

Al-Ghadhawi, Abdullah. “Uighur Jihadists in Syria.” Center for Global Policy. March 18, 2020.

  • A short article about the circumstances surrounding ethnic Uyghur fighters in Syria.

Azam, Azhar. “BRI is instrumental to realizing ‘no poverty’ vision.” CGTN. October 18, 2019.

  • A short article making clear BRI’s role in Xinjiang’s poverty alleviation as well as its potential for poverty alleviation in other countries.

Bhadrakumar, M.K. “US lacerates China’s Uighur wound.” Indian Punchline (blog). March 28, 2019.

  • Indian Punchline is a blog run by M.K. Bhadrakumar, a retired career diplomat of India. This blogpost—slightly dated now given the evolution of the controversy—properly examines the Xinjiang controversy in the U.S.’s strategic calculus.

Fuller, Graham E. & S. Frederick Starr. “The Xinjiang Problem.” Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. 2003.

  • An interesting dated report on the then situation in Xinjiang, written by a former Vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council and CIA Station Chief in Kabul. Not only a primer on some of the longer-term background of the issue through the lenses of the United States (and a light on the severity of the terrorism issue), but also a window into a prior time in which a prominent United States thinker urged cooperation with China to defeat terrorism and to avoid over-politicizing the issue in the hopes of greater global stability. 

Gunaratna, Rohan. “Salafism in China and its Jihadist-Takfiri strains.” Al Mesbar Studies & Research Center. January 18, 2018.

  • A short report on Salafism in China and the connection of some of its more extremist strands to terrorist activities over time.

Novák, Izak. “The War on China.” Izak Novák (blog). April 17, 2020.

  • A general overview essay about the longstanding decades-long strategy of the United States against China. Importantly, it discusses the Belt and Road Initiative as a strategy to break out of U.S. encirclement, hegemonism, and imperialism, and Xinjiang’s central importance to the BRI.

Prashad, Vijay. “Trade and tensions between the U.S. and China.” Monthly Review. August 3, 2020.

  • Only a small part of this article is about Xinjiang, but it places the Western fixation on it into proper context in advancing Western “political and commercial ends.”

Ron Paul Liberty Report. “‘What is the Empire’s Strategy?’ – Col. Lawrence Wilkerson Speech at Ron Paul Institute Media & War Conference.” YouTube video, 26:10. August 22, 2018. 

  • One former U.S. military official’s insider perspective as to why the United States is in Afghanistan. He asserts it “has nothing to do with fighting terrorism” and more to do with establishing military control over a territory of strategic interest to Chinese trade routes. Time stamp starting at 20:55 is included in the link. 

d. Poverty Alleviation and Economic Development in Xinjiang

These sources describe a small slice of Xinjiang’s poverty alleviation efforts and economic development initiatives, while exploring the real and concrete impacts these programs have on the lives of ordinary people.

Animal husbandry helping to drive up incomes.” CGTN. May 7, 2020.

China’s Xinjiang generates 260 bln kWh clean electricity.” Xinhua. August 8, 2020.

  • Xinjiang is quickly becoming a hub for green energy production and distribution. This short note and video offers a small glimpse into the greening of Xinjiang and China.

E-commerce development boosts farm produce sales.” CGTN. May 6, 2020.

Voices from the Frontline: China’s War on Poverty. Film. Directed by Peter Getzels. The Kuhn Foundation & PBS Socal, 2020. [available here]

  • A documentary hosted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn offering an insightful look into the war against absolute poverty. The documentary not only provides an on-the-ground look at the procedures and effects of poverty alleviation efforts as well as their often imperfect executions, but also shine a light on the workings of the Communist Party of China, including mobilization, promotion, corruption, monitoring, and discipline. Kuhn travels to Hainan, Gansu, Guizhou, Xinjiang, and Sichuan, gaining a rare and balanced insight into Chinese society and policies. Ironically, some of the entities involved in poverty alleviation in Xinjiang, such as the one highlighted by the documentary, are the very entities being sanctioned and boycotted by U.S. legislation and private brands such as H&M. [the interviewees speak in a wide variety of local dialects and accents; the Xinjiang interviewees except for Murzabek Tapi speak in Kazakh]
  • First aired on May 11 and 12 of 2020, and despite its award-winning status, the documentary was quickly taken down barely a week after release on May 20, citing “editorial standards.” Kuhn called it “a shame” that PBS removed his film from its platform due to “extraneous internal political matters in the United States.”

Jie, Shan. “Xinjiang scores victories in the war on poverty.” Global Times. December 18, 2019.

  • A very short and succinct article with small snippets of human stories concerning poverty alleviation in Xinjiang.

Labor transfer program boosts employment.” CGTN. May 8, 2020.

Localized factories lift Xinjiang locals out of poverty.” CGTN. May 8, 2020.

Lu, Yin & Zhang Xinyuan. “Xinjiang’s millennial entrepreneurs make the most of the Internet age.” Global Times. July 4, 2016.

  • An older article from 2016 about new Xinjiang entrepreneurs harnessing both the power of the internet and the increasing interconnectivity of Xinjiang to the world via the Belt and Road Initiative.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang. 2020.

  • This white paper provides an overview of the employment and labor in Xinjiang, providing statistics, giving personal anecdotes, and highlighting labor laws and the efforts being made to improve them, in the context of poverty alleviation programs.

Trans-regional job offers help Xinjiang farmers shake off poverty.” CGTN. May 3, 2020.

Villagers get access to clean water as projects continue.” CGTN. May 2, 2020.

Wellness of people in remote areas safeguarded.” CGTN. May 4, 2020.

Ed. Yang, Yi. “China highlights support to Xinjiang through pairing assistance.” Xinhua. July 16, 2019.

  • Pairing assistance is a common practice in the People’s Republic whereas richer provinces and localities directly send aid, expertise, and cadres to poorer provinces and localities in order to help them develop. This is a short article about the visit of a senior Party official Wang Yang to Xinjiang and the re-emphasizing of this program. 

e. Overview of Chinese Minority/Religious Policies

These sources provide a quick overview of China’s policies towards minority nationalities and religion, with some focus on efforts with relevance to Xinjiang and Islam. 

Beech, Hannah. “If China is Anti-Islam, Why are These Chinese Muslims Enjoying a Faith Revival?Time. August 12, 2014.

  • A relatively honest Western media attempt to look at Islam in China before the current 2018 controversy. The author notes that thriving Hui Muslim communities in China have also been targeted by terrorist attacks.

CCTV. “Students’ Daily Life [sic] at Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Northwest China.” YouTube video, 2:19. June 19, 2016.

  • This is a short video showing daily life at an Islamic educational institute in China.

Kasim, Muhabbat (Muhabaiti Hasimu). “新世纪新疆双语教学:七大变化,三点建议.” China Minzu Cultural Resources. September 20, 2018. (reprinted from Zhongguo Minzu Bao (China Ethnic News), August 13, 2010, 6)

  • A Uyghur scholar of bilingual education and Turkic languages reflects on the changing situation of bilingual education in Xinjiang, noticing seven changes from her personal experience and leaving three recommendations for the future. Of particular note, it was not until the recent decade that Chinese language was taught to minority children starting in the first grade (previously it started in the fourth grade). [Chinese language]

Li, Qian. “Chinese government goes to great lengths to help Muslims go on the hajj.” Global Times. August 14, 2017.

  • Documents Chinese state programs to offer support for those who want to go on hajj pilgrimage.

Lim, Louisa. “Female Imams Blaze Trail Among China’s Muslims.” NPR. July 21, 2010. 

  • Documents the unique Chinese Muslim tradition of women-led mosques. The article ends with a curious line: “And so it appears the future of female imams in China is threatened — not by the state, not by resistance from inside Islam, but by the forces of market economics.” This seems to reflect the shifting and inconsistent media agenda on China: from ‘ruthlessly capitalist’ forces stymying Chinese state efforts to preserve minority cultures and religious practices to godless Communist entity seeking to wipe out Islam.

Liu, Xin. “Xinjiang Muslims welcome govt’s efforts on hajj journeys.” Global Times. August 2, 2019.

  • A more recent article detailing the governmental measures offering support for rural Xinjiang Muslims who wish to go on hajj pilgrimage.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. National Minorities Policy and Its Practice in China. 1999. 

  • Although dated, many of the policies described in this paper are still in effect today.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. China’s Ethnic Policy and Common Prosperity and Development of All Ethnic Groups. 2009.

  • Like the above, a dry read, but full of data that demonstrates the efforts of the government in minority policies – Qiao recommends drawing attention to the passages in the white paper addressing tax exemption programs (Section V), minority languages, and intangible heritage (Section VI).

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang. 2016.

  • A white paper devoted to the progress of ensuring religious freedom in Xinjiang, although written shortly before the controversial 2017 de-radicalization regulations.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang. 2018.

  • A white paper devoted specifically to cultural policies in Xinjiang, with special considerations for the minority nationalities of Xinjiang.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China. 2019. 

  • A more recent white paper about China’s progress on human rights issues. Section V is devoted to minority policies.

Why does China have women-only mosques.” BBC. February 23, 2016. 

  • An article which shows that as late as 2016, there was some attempt by the West to understand Islam in China on its own terms, even by the world’s largest “public broadcasting company.”

Zhang, Hui. “China bans anti-Islam words on social media.” Global Times. September 21, 2017. 

  • China’s infamous censoring apparatus actively tries to censor Islamophobic hate speech on social media.

新疆维吾尔自治区计划2020年全面普及双语教育.” Zhongguo Zhengfu Wang. October 6, 2010. 

  • A simple news report from 2010 that explains the plans of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to have widespread bilingual education in the autonomous region by 2020. [Chinese language]

新疆维吾尔自治区人口与计划生育条例 [Xinjiang Population and Family Planning Regulations] (promulgated by the People’s Congress of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, November 28, 2002) (made available on the website of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Health & Hygiene Commission) (current law, rev’d July 28, 2017) (previous version, rev’d June 3, 2010, available on the website 51labour)

  • This is the statute currently governing Xinjiang’s family planning. Particular attention should be placed on the general rule articulated in Article 15, pre and post-2017: [Chinese language]
    • Pre-2017: Couples of urban Han residents can have one child, and couples of ethnic minority residents can have two children. Couples of Han farmers and herdsmen can have two children, and couples of ethnic farmers and herdsmen can have three children.
    • Post-2017: Couples of urban residents can have two children, and couples of rural residents can have three children.

f. The Misinformation Industrial Complex

These sources provide some general context as to the bias and agenda of Western non-state actors, particularly mainstream media and NGOs, which often act in concert with Western imperialist state agendas rather than a check on them. 

In particular, these sources highlight the historic uses of “atrocity propaganda,” through which the U.S. has galvanized public opinion for war and intervention through misrepresentations and outright lies vis-a-vis ‘humanitarian concerns.’ In particular, the wars in Iraq and intervention in Syria provide a historical warning for how mainstream media and research institutes amplify State Department ambitions. 

Bruton, F. Brinley & Tony Brown. “U.S. targets Chinese Uighur militants as well as Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.” NBC News. February 8, 2018.

  • Addresses U.S. aerial bombing campaigns in Afghanistan, painting the U.S. bombing of ethnic Uyghur terrorist camps in Afghanistan as good, even natural. At the same time, the article paints these same actors as repressed freedom fighters in China’s domestic context—clear instances of double standards that speak to U.S. geopolitical interests in the region.  

Butt, Ahsan I. “Why did Bush go to war with Iraq?Al Jazeera. March 19, 2019. 

  • One more exploration of the now infamous lies that built consensus for American intervention in Iraq, a war that has directly led to a disastrous humanitarian crisis.

Fisk, Robert. “Bashar al-Assad, Syria, and the truth about chemical weapons.” Independent. December 8, 2012.

  • An article about the history of Western allegations of atrocities committed in the Middle East in the leadup to war and intervention.

Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post. September 22, 1991.

  • This article quotes from the horse’s mouth the role of the National Endowment for Democracy as the “sugar daddy of overt operations” for State Department anti-communist and regime change agendas. The admission of NED intent to undermine ‘enemy nations’ should call into serious question why the NED funds groups as diverse as the World Uyghur Congress to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.  

McIntyre, Jamie. “Meet ETIM, the terrorist group the US just bombed in Afghanistan.” Washington Examiner. February 10, 2018.

  • This article from the right-wing Washington Examiner cites Pentagon officials designating the East Turkistan Islamic Movementas a terrorist group of security concern to U.S. ambitions in the Middle East—a label which speaks to the double standard of Western media when it comes to ETIM/TIP as a threat to U.S. interests or a cudgel to be wielded against China.  

Noble Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch’s Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government.” Alternet. July 6, 2014.

  • An older open letter expressing concern over Human Rights Watch’s “revolving door” with the United States government, causing it to overlook the U.S.’s own abysmal human rights record and subjecting the organization to partisan politics.

Norton, Ben. “Twitter spreads paid US gov’t propaganda while falsely claiming it bans state media ads.” The Grayzone. August 10, 2020.

  • While focused on Twitter and its pushing of American governmental agenda, this article has a helpful section on the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and demonstrates clearly how the agency and its constituent platforms including Radio Free Asia are nothing more than “soft-power arm[s] of the US government,” a context that should be taken into mind when consuming its contents.

O’Neill, Brendan. “The missing people-shredder.” The Guardian. February 24, 2004. 

  • A retrospective inquiry finds the sensationalist accounts of Saddam Hussein’s “people shredder” circulated by Western media in the leadup to the Iraq war were never substantiated. 

Sinophobia Inc: Understanding the Anti-China Industrial Complex.” Qiao Collective. September 3, 2020.

  • An in-depth review of the financial ties of prominent China think tanks such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reveals a deep conflict of interest: many such institutes are funded by Western state entities and the same weapons manufacturers now cutting record arms deals to equip the anti-China “Pivot to Asia.” Many of the aforementioned think tanks have promulgated serious allegations with regards to Xinjiang.

Singh, Ajit. “Inside the World Uyghur Congress.” The Grayzone. March 5, 2020.

  • An extensively-sourced and medium-length exploration of the World Uyghur Congress, a focal organization from which many of the other organizations advocating East Turkistan independence branches off, and its shady connections with U.S. regime changers and Turkish far-right actors.

Sheridan, Tommy. “Syria and Chemical Weapons – Secrets and Convenient Lies.” Sputnik. May 31, 2019.

  • An article outlining the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and how it was manipulated to serve consensus-building for war against Assad.

Sun, Feiyang. “Letters to the Editor: The Case of the Keriya Aitika Mosque.” CGTN. July 7, 2020.

  • This is an editorial briefly discussing the “case” of the Keriya Aitika Mosque, in which it was claimed that the mosque was demolished and insinuated that the People’s Republic was engaging in mass demolition of places of worship, but it turned out to be renovation work for the historic mosque.

The Propaganda Multiplier.” Swiss Policy Research. March 2019.

  • This article does not talk about Xinjiang, but about the general procedures of “international news coverage” and why stories appearing consistently across “major” and “respectable” news sources is not in fact a strong indicator that it is credible. The current media structure is highly susceptible to misinformation, and in fact government agencies are very involved.

Witness to War. “Former CIA Agent John Stockwell Talks about How the CIA Worked in Vietnam and Elsewhere.” YouTube video, 15:12. September 29, 2017.

  • This video is an interview of a former CIA officer (field case officer) John Stockwell, who speaks about the CIA’s close ties with the news media and journalists, the feeding of “pure raw false propaganda… creating illusions of Communists eating babies for breakfast,” and the particular process through which United States intelligence comes to shape and mold narratives around the world.

Xiong, Jack. “The Fake News in 1990 That Propelled the US into the First Gulf War.” Citizen Truth. May 7, 2018.

  • A somewhat recent article that explores the background of the “Nayirah testimony,” arguably the first instance of atrocity propaganda in the then new world order of American unilateralism. 

Zhang, Chi. “One Uighur Man’s Journey Goes Viral.” Foreign Policy. May 14, 2014.

  • An interesting look at a contemporary account of Xinjiang’s society at the height of the period between 2009 and 2014 when the problem of terrorism was particularly severe in Xinjiang. Not only does this article explore the perspective of an actual Uyghur person living in China, but this article, in tandem with other articles on this list dealing with female imams and Islamic revival in China, shows how drastically the media agenda on China has changed since 2014. This article ultimately provides an even-handed and frank look at a snapshot of Xinjiang before the current controversy of 2018. 

g. Views from Xinjiang: People, Cultures, and History

These are miscellaneous sources covering contemporary Xinjiang, Xinjiang’s diverse people and cultures, Xinjiang’s modern and ancient history, and the little-understood, even within China, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). 

Xinjiang’s Diverse People, Cultures, and Experiences

安妮古丽. “191.新疆叼羊比賽見過嗎?哈薩克族馬背上的熱血競技,現場燃爆了!YouTube video, 4:43. August 16, 2019.

  • CW: Animal harm. Anniguli is a Uyghur woman living in Xinjiang who mostly vlogs about her everyday life. Here she spectates Kazakhs participating in the sport, buzkashi. Buzkashi is a traditional Central Asian sport that often involves playing polo with a sheep carcass while on horseback. [Chinese language, some Kazakh can be heard]

安妮古丽. “新疆零下20°怎麼出門?維吾爾美女有妙招,你覺得這樣有效果嗎?YouTube video, 3:55. May 23, 2019. 

  • This is Anniguli’s most popular video to date. Here she mostly remarks on how cold it got in Urumqi. [Chinese language, some Uyghur can be heard accompanying the pedestrian crossing signal]

阿依图娜. “017南疆偏僻的一个巴扎,每天的交易量惊人!和田人都是隐形的富豪?YouTube video, 3:48. July 14, 2020.

  • Ayituna is another Uyghur woman living in Xinjiang who mostly vlogs about her everyday life. Here, in her most popular video to date, she goes to the goat market and watches its bustling business. [Chinese language]

阿依图娜. “054南疆姑娘开始臭美了!迫不及待到厂子拿新裙子,回家换上转个圈!.” YouTube video, 4:10. August 20, 2020.

  • In this video, Ayituna visits a workshop to shop for clothing. The workshop appears to be part of a poverty alleviation program, the type that Adrian Zenz scaremongered about back in July 2019. [Chinese language, Uyghur spoken in the workshop]

CCTV. “Our Stories of the Past 40 Years” Series

CCTV中国中央电视台. “[2019非遗公开课]《十二木卡姆》 表演:莎车县十二木卡姆民间艺术团.” YouTube video, 2:39. June 7, 2019.

  • Muqam is a rich Uyghur musical tradition well-known across China. It was among the first four intangible heritages registered by China to the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008, alongside Guqin, Kunqu Opera, and Mongolian Long Song (Urtiin Duu). This video is a short performance of Muqam as well as traditional Uyghur dance.

CGTN. Amazing Xinjiang Series

  • This CGTN playlist contains a number of Xinjiang-focused videos on various topics and localities, largely low-key and laidback content. 

CGTN. “Assignment Asia Episode 75: Transforming lives and building bridges in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 25:16. November 5, 2017.

  • This video from before the 2018 controversy covers many aspects of developmental work in Xinjiang, including education, labor transfer, grassroots governmental work, and living standards for people finding employment outside Xinjiang. The footage does not shy away from showing the difficulties and adjustments people in Xinjiang face as they go through changes in their lives. [Uyghur spoken in some scenes]

CGTN. “Dolan Muqam music tradition thrives among local Uygurs.” YouTube video, 4:04. August 16, 2017.

  • This video provides a quick overview of Muqam as well as over a distinct rural tradition within Muqam.

CGTN. Eid al-Fitr Series

CGTN. “Epic of Manas: The history of Kirgiz in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 1:15. May 22, 2018.

  • The Epic of Manas is a Kyrgyz epic poem traditionally passed down orally. The storytelling of Manas was registered by China in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. This video provides a quick overview of the tradition of Manas storytelling in China.

CGTN. “Looking China: Akyns song that brings happiness.” YouTube video, 9:33. January 23, 2017. 

  • This video is a collection of Akyns (song-like recitative improvisation accompanied by dombra) performed by Kazakh musician Jiahnur Ohas, overlaid by scenes of Xinjiang’s Kazakh regions. [songs are sung in Kazakh language]

CGTN. “Looking China: Xibe ethnic group in Xinjiang.” YouTube video, 11:59. Jan 22, 2017.

  • This video is a slice-of-life feature of a young Xibe girl living in Xinjiang, entirely narrated in the Xibe language, a relative of the Manchu language.

CGTN. “Modern designs revive traditional craft and industry.” YouTube video, 4:25. October 6, 2016. 

  • This serves both as an introduction to “atlas silk,” a characteristic material in traditional Central Asian clothing, as well as a short look at fashion designer Alim Adil’s hope to introduce atlas more into modern clothing. 

CGTN. “The everlasting spirit of the Kazaks on grasslands.” YouTube video, 5:04. May 22, 2019.

  • This is a look at the life of a nomadic Kazakh family, including worries and concerns for the future, displaying the still wide experiences of modern life in Xinjiang, much less China today.

CGTN. “Travelogue with Tajik people: Modern life in Xinjiang’s rocky mountains.” YouTube video, 29:19. June 27, 2016.

  • This is an older documentary of a Chinese-British diaspora CGTN host spending time in a rural Tajik village. It does a good job of showing the developmental difficulties as well as unique features of high-altitude mountain valley life. 

CHINA LIVE. “帕米尔高原上牦牛叼羊比赛 / Buzkashi with Yaks on the Chinese Pamir.” YouTube video, 2:57. March 20, 2016. 

  • CW: Animal harm. Buzkashi is a traditional Central Asian sport that often involves playing polo with a sheep carcass while on horseback. The Tajiks of Xinjiang are distinguished by their playing of buzkashi while mounted on yaks. 

Guangming Online. “Fascinating China” Series

Looking China Official Channel. “Manas 玛纳斯.” YouTube video, 9:28. August 24, 2016.

  • This video provides a more detailed look at the tradition of Manas in China and the scholarly efforts dedicated to researching the Epic of Manas further and preserving it. In particular, the role of the Manas Research Center in Xinjiang Normal University is explored.

New China TV. “Xinjiang Rediscovered” series.

  • This is a series of more mundane experiences: average residents of Xinjiang who talk about their lives, experiences, and hopes for the future.

xinjiang china.” YouTube channel.

  • This YouTube channel periodically shares videos of Xinjiang, its people and its places. Particularly recommended are:
    • A short film series called 《我的家乡更美好》, or “Better Hometown, Better Life.” It is a series interviewing several students of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine who are minority youth from Xinjiang, who talk about their experiences in Xinjiang and in university as well as go back to their hometowns to see how much they have developed. Some are only in Chinese. [Chinese source here]
    • 7 videos currently available about people who have studied at the vocational centers, as part of a series called 《拥抱新生活》or “Embracing a New Life.” [Chinese source here, although the videos on this site are now unavailable]


第一次的离别》(《تۇنجى ئايرىلىش》, A First Farewell). Film. Directed by Wang Lina. Tencent Pictures, 2020.

Xinzhao Li 李馨曌. “新疆 塔什库尔干塔吉克族 “Through The Unknown Tashkurgan”.” YouTube video, 8:28. January 3, 2020. 

  • This is a short overview of a photographer’s extended stay in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, and her experiences as the locality and its people changed and grew.

Xinjiang’s History

Dickens, Mark. “The Soviets in Xinjiang: 1911-1949.” 1990.

  • An older but excellent overview of the complexities of Soviet involvement in Xinjiang, as well as the Republican history of the region before 1949.

Grousset, René. Walford, Naomi, trans. Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1970.

  • A classic historical text on Central Asia with an emphasis on nomadic empires. It covers broader Central Asia beyond Xinjiang, but also summarizes Xinjiang history up to the Qing Dynasty’s defeat of the Khoja Uprising in 1759.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang. 2019. 

  • An official Chinese document concerning the history of Xinjiang. While it does paint in broad strokes, it provides a quick overview of the history of the region.

Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC)

Bao, Yajun (包雅钧). “The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps: An Insider’s Perspective.” Blavatnik School of Government Working Paper Series (BSG-WP-2018/023)  (2018). 

  • One of the few English-language scholarly reports—more of a summary—on the XPCC. Nonetheless, an interesting perspective from a scholar who studied the XPCC on behalf of the Central Organization Department of the CPC (Central Compilation and Translation Bureau 中央编译局) during a restive period in Xinjiang’s history.

State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. The History and Development of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. 2014. 

  • A white paper on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) that gives an overview of the XPCC, its history, and its operations. The XPCC as a sort of “government within a government” plays an important if little understood role in Xinjiang.
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: