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Xinjiang: Waterloo of US human right diplomacy

By Li Jiming | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-06-07 09:09

Inheritors of Daolang Muqam intangible cultural heritage hold musical performance in Makit county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Sept 15, 2019. [Photo by Shang Changping/For China Daily]

Believe it or not, history will prove that the current human rights diplomacy of the US government is meet its Waterloo, as evidenced by its lack of due attention to some of the real issues, and weird obsession with lies which can only be supported by other lies of its politicians. Its contradicting positions on the Palestine issue and on the Xinjiang issue may just be the two sides of the same coin.

It's worth remembering that while the hearts of the Bangladeshi people were with their Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine, and almost all major countries in the world were doing what they could to deescalate the situation and facilitate a ceasefire, there was only one country standing in the way of any meaningful action. Would you believe it, it is the same country which always proclaims to stand with "oppressed" Muslims around the world especially those in Xinjiang?

Among all the attempts to exploit the Xinjiang issue, the most galling move has been the allegation of "genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang", which was first made by the then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo through his baseless statement of "I believe this genocide is ongoing" on his last day in office at the end of Trump's administration. Moreover, these allegations are getting escalated to the policy-making level of some Western countries as well. For example, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained, Canada's House of Commons voted to declare China's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. The Dutch and Belgium parliaments also passed relevant non-binding motions, symbolizing that "fake news" has started turning into "fake laws". And the latest show was put up by the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called for a "diplomatic boycott" of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

What is a bit comforting is that we are hearing more and more unbiased voices about Xinjiang, many from the West. These efforts make it possible to let more people get to the bottom of what's going on and reveal the ins and outs of the lies about Xinjiang. They also offer new opportunities to China to demonstrate its achievements made in Xinjiang and beyond to the world.

Genocide determination as agenda

The Xinjiang "genocide" accusation originated from a report called The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China's Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention, co-produced by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a US think tank, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a Canadian NGO. In April 2021, Thore Vestby, former mayor of Norway's Frogn municipality, released a paper in collaboration with Dutch and Danish scholars, laying bare the lack of objectivity, verity and integrity of the Newlines-Wallenberg Report.

Vestby's paper pointed out that the report and the two institutions behind it are not "independent" but deeply influenced by religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism. The report is the product of cooperation among individuals from at least six more or less interconnected interest groups, or milieus, namely: Christian fundamentalists + conservative US foreign policy hawks + Muslim Brotherhood + extreme anti-Communism activists + pro-Israel lobbyists + the politicized human rights machinery (in which human rights concerns tend to serve various types of interventions by the US). Vestby noted that a wide range of mainstream Western media immediately covered the so-called "first independent scholarly documentation" after it was released without even the basic verification of its content, showing that the arms industry-media-think tank interest consortium in the United States is so strong that some academic institutions have been completely reduced to its accomplices.

Vestby's work also revealed that the report quotes a large number of falsified data and misinterpreted information, pieced together from significantly and systematically biased choices of sources. Some fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts and facts are deliberately left out. What Vestby has found in the report makes one believe that if this is the highest-quality documentation of "genocide" in Xinjiang, one may seriously doubt whether other things that have been said on Xinjiang could be true. What's more, the report conveys propaganda in the specific sense of treating China as the subject of all evil without the understanding that China's policies somewhat reflects its external relations with other countries, including its confrontational relations with the US. By examining China as an isolated variable, the report cannot produce any comparative perspective. To put it crudely: if China has committed genocide in Xinjiang, should we also determine other states/actors as genocidal? Or, how does China's War on Terror inside Xinjiang and its human costs compare with the US-led Global War On Terror and its human costs?

In conclusion, Vestby said Raphael Lemkin would turn in his grave if he learned that the crime of "genocide" has been so crassly instrumentalized to beat the drums of Sinophobia. The sudden flurry of US's interest in the fate of the Uyghur people seems less motivated by compassion or the protection of human rights than copying the most cynical pages of the Machiavellian playbook of geopolitics.

Xinjiang genocide allegations are unjustified

On April 20, 2021, professor Jeffrey D. Sachs at Columbia University, who served as adviser to three UN secretaries-generals, and professor William Schabas at Middlesex University, London, co-published an article which was released by Project Syndicate. The authors noted that the genocide charge was made by the then top diplomat of the US, who made no secret of his belief in lying as a tool of his country's foreign policy. Now President Joe Biden's administration has doubled down on this flimsy claim, even though the State Department's own top lawyers reportedly share skepticism regarding the charge. The article determined that unless substantial proofs are available, the US State Department should withdraw the charge.

The article also argues that the US government needlessly escalated its rhetoric against China by misusing the term "genocide". Such a grave charge matters, as genocide is rightly considered "the crime of crimes", and the inappropriate use of the term may escalate geopolitical and military tensions and devalue the historical memory of genocides, thereby hindering the ability to prevent future genocides. It behooves the US government to make any charge of genocide responsibly, which it has failed to do here.

Put an end to fake news

On March 19 this year, French journalist and writer Maxime Vivas shared online a video of Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired US army colonel and former chief of staff to former US secretary of State Colin Powell, giving a speech in August 2018. Wilkerson said in the video: "If the CIA wanted to destabilize China, that would be the best way to do it—to form unrest and join with those Uyghurs in pushing the Han Chinese in Beijing from internal rather than external."

This is not the first time Vivas has lifted the veil on the more "unwholesome" practices adopted by the US from time to time. Vivas paid two visits to Xinjiang, in 2016 and 2018, respectively, stopping at farms, factories, schools, hospitals and mosques. He wrote down everything he saw in a new book Uyghurs: Putting an End to Fake News. "There is not an ounce of truth in the anti-China allegations involving the Uyghurs. Some journalists have never even been to Xinjiang and they readily pass on the lies to their readership," he said in the book. Vivas also gives readers a year by year, to the dollar, account of the financial amounts received by the so-called "Uyghur World Congress", and he adds precisely what is requested of it in return. "My expectations are that China will demonstrate that it is in fact possible for a country to be both a great power as well as a patron of peace and friendship," Vivas concluded.

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