Foreign Diplomats Visit Xinjiang From July 31 to August 3, Claim that Muslim Uyghurs Live a Happy Life, with no References to the Ongoing Genocide Foreign Diplomats Visit Xinjiang From July 31 to August 3, Claim that Muslim Uyghurs Live a Happy Life, with no References to the Ongoing Genocide
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Human rights activists have criticized a Chinese government-sponsored visit to Xinjiang by 25 Bejing-based ambassadors and other diplomats from developing countries who claimed that Muslim Uyghurs of the region are thriving, despite growing evidence of severe repression and an ongoing genocide. The delegation, which included diplomats from Dominica, Myanmar, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and Mexico, visited the western autonomous region from July 31 to Aug. 3. According to Xinhua news agency and CGTN, China’s state-run international TV broadcaster, the diplomats visited Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, as well as the cities of Aksu and Kashgar, and other significant locales to observe the region’s “economic and social progress” and affirm that “the local population in Xinjiang is living a happy life.” (Hoja, 2023).
Martin Charles, the ambassador to China from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, told Xinhua:
“During our time in Xinjiang, we had open conversations with the local people and observed that they lead content and happy lives”.
China has been utilizing government-organized visits for foreign officials and influential people from various professions to promote a distorted vision of Uyghur life in Xinjiang amid growing condemnation by Western nations over its systematic human rights abuses of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities. The U.S. government and several Western parliaments have previously declared that the ongoing human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture, forced sterilizations of Uyghur women, and forced labor, amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. China also denounced a report issued nearly a year ago by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights that documented cases of severe abuses in Xinjiang. This report said that the abuses could constitute international crimes, particularly crimes against humanity (Hoja, 2023).
Despite the diversity of the groups who have been touring the region they all share a common practice: They all support China’s “Xinjiang policy” (Putz, 2020).
Similarly, a second team of ambassadors and diplomats from Beijing-based African nations, including Senegal, Benin, Mali, Rwanda, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda, Lesotho, and Chad, visited Xinjiang at the beginning of February and praised China's policies there. The majority of these developing nations, who have benefited from Chinese-built and financed infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, continue to enjoy close economic connections with China. They also back China's position in the UN (Putz, 2020).
An earlier suggestion by the U.N.'s top human rights agency to host a discussion on alleged rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was rejected by members of the diplomatic mission who visited in July. The majority of Western countries' proposal, including the United States, was rejected in October 2022.
Six days prior to the diplomats’ visit to Xinjiang, the Chinese government organized a seminar in Urumqi to present their view of the region. During discussions about “telling the story of Xinjiang well,” participants emphasized reaching overseas audiences by transmitting the narrative in languages other than Mandarin Chinese (Hoja, 2023).
Hoja, G. (2023, August 11). Foreign diplomats in China treated to tour of Xinjiang and ‘happy’ Uyghurs. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/foreign-diplomats-08112023160729.html
Putz, C. (2020, October 20). 2020 Edition: Which Countries Are For or Against China’s Xinjiang Policies? The Diplomat. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/2020-edition-which-countries-are-for-or-against-chinas-xinjiang-policies/