Rabu, 07 April 2021

China denies abuse of Uyghurs in bizarre press conference -

The Chinese government has held an extraordinary press conference in Canberra, trotting out members of a Muslim ethnic minority to deny they had been persecuted by the communist nation.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra invited Australian journalists to the meeting on Wednesday to defend Beijing’s human rights record in Xinjiang Province, where human rights groups believe more than a million Muslim Uyghurs have been sent to internment camps.

But in a surreal press conference branded a “cheap stunt” by Human Rights Watch, Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye insisted Uyghurs were not subjected to oppression in Xinjiang.

The press conference titled “Xinjiang is a wonderful life” kicked off with several technical issues inside the Chinese Ambassador’s Residence.

The room of press, academics and officials were forced to sit in silence for several awkward minutes throughout the two-hour presentation, while staff struggled to hear and translate the questions.

One propaganda video about Xinjiang’s economic development showed panoramic views of a city with a ferris wheel, bright colours with people happily singing, dancing and eating together — in an attempt to demonstrate it was a “land of harmony and stability” after curbing the threat of terrorism and extremism in the region.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, said the point of the press conference was to combat “disinformation” about Xinjiang and the Uyghurs.

“Over some time, there has been quite some distorted coverage about Xinjiang in certain Western media,” Mr Cheng said.

“Those reports are basically based on disinformation or misinformation.

“Today’s press conference is to help you Australian journalists to have a better understanding of the actual situation in Xinjiang.”

Journalists were shown a six-minute propaganda video – entitled “Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land” – depicting the region as one of “economic development, social stability, livelihood improvement and religious harmony”.

The video suggested the Communist Party of China had “transformed” Xinjiang “into a land of life, a land of thriving vitality”.

China has long insisted the camps are designed to quell a growing separatist movement in the region, driven by the Uyghur population.

The video claimed 56 ethnic groups had “worked together to develop a vast magnificent part of the motherland”.

“The Chinese government has placed high on its agenda the inheritance, protection and development of the excellent traditional ethnic cultures of Xinjiang,” it said.

In a video presentation marred by technical hiccups, various Muslims were filmed denying their religious freedoms were curtailed.

“People and food, everything is so good here,” one said.

“The people (are) so friendly actually, me and my friends are so happy to stay here.”

When the journalists were permitted to ask questions later, the government representatives repeatedly refused to say how many Uyghurs were detained in Xinjiang, except to say that the 1 million figure was “fabricated”.

He insisted the camps were not prisons, but designed to “educate” perpetrators of minor crimes.

Mr Cheng repeatedly refused to answer questions on deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra.

“Let’s focus on Xinjiang,” he said.

But when reminded China had listed Australia’s stance on Xinjiang as one of 14 grievances it had with Canberra, Mr Cheng said Beijing was “disappointed”.

“We are of course disappointed by those allegations by the Australian side and we have made that clear,” he said.

But Mr Cheng lashed out when a journalist accused China of “hiding the truth” on issues as simple as air pollution.

“Obviously your question is based on a presumption of disinformation and fake news, fabricated and spread in the media and the supposed think tanks,” Mr Cheng said.

Six women from different walks of life also shared their experiences living in Xinjiang.

In one bizarre moment, one woman disclosed she used an intra-uterine contraceptive device.

“I think it fits me well,” she said in a video.

Another mother of two said claims families were forced to send their children to boarding school were “downright lies”.

One 27-year-old female who had returned to work after caring for her children made a point of how having a job allowed her to buy the dress that she was wearing.

When asked why so many women, and not men, were used to convey the government’s message about Xinjiang, officials responded with a laugh.

They said Western media outlets were concerned about family planning policies.

“We think it is more appropriate for the women representatives to answer the questions,” a translator said.

One woman, who attended a training centre, said she learnt right from wrong there.

“It’s given me a new life,” she said.


Liberal senator Eric Abetz, a long-term critic of Beijing, blasted the embassy’s move.

“This video is a sickening display of propaganda that attempts to dismiss the egregious human rights abuses occurring in Xinjiang against the Uyghur people,” he said.

“Though the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) tries to hide and obfuscate information from Xinjiang and the human rights abuses committed there, increasing evidence reveals the CCP’s intention to commit genocide against the Uyghur people.”

Mr Abetz said the truth of what was under way in Xinjiang was “slowly revealing itself”, with various international reports emerging depicting “ample evidence” of human rights abuses.

Human Rights Watch said the press conference was a “cheap stunt”.

“What happened today at the embassy was clearly a cheap propaganda stunt and it should be called out as such,” the organisation said in a statement.

“It’s important to note that people in Xinjiang are regularly coerced by authorities to appear as part of these disinformation efforts.

“We have no way of knowing if the women featured appeared at their own free will or what threats might have been made against them if they didn’t speak as instructed.

“We already know that Beijing is committing some of the gravest abuses under international law against Uygurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang including mass arbitrary detention, torture, separation of families, forced labour and violations of reproductive rights.

“The world is watching and these clumsy attempts by Beijing to cover up the truth don’t fool anyone.”

Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association president Ramila Chanisheff said the number of people to had passed through the camps could range between 5 and 8 million, with more than 380 sites across Xinjiang.

She said the press conference was a sign of “desperation” from Beijing, which was “very much afraid” of the growing international scrutiny about the province.

“I think what we can see is that they’re desperate, they’re trying every way to cover up the reality of the actual statistics and the pure evidence that’s coming out of Xinjiang,” she told Sky News.

“The world is realising what’s happening out there, they’re seeing it for what it is. I think China is very much afraid at the moment.”

Ms Chanisheff said China’s economic and international influence meant it would likely become more vocal as it defended its record in Xinjiang.

Canada’s parliament in February declared a genocide was under way in the region, while UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab accused China of a “highly disturbing program of oppression” last month.

“This is one of the worst human rights crises of our time and I believe the evidence is clear, as it is sobering,” he said.

Despite deteriorating relations between Canberra and Beijing over the past year, Australia has so far resisted following suit.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last month indicated Australia would not declare a genocide in Xinjiang.

“We have a slightly different approach to that turn of phrase, and I don’t mean this in a pedantic or semantic way,” she said.

But Ms Payne called on China to allow the UN high commissioner for human rights to have access to the region.

In September, more than 300 civil society groups from more than 60 countries urged the United Nations to create an independent mechanism to address Beijing’s human rights violations.

“China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens – its support for dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever,” Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights said.

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2021-04-07 07:41:15Z

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