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China’s media runs interference on Human Rights violations

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This story first published on The Dark Wire: An Investigation Foundation

The West is increasingly waking up to China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang towards the Uyghurs. Last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) accused Amazon, Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola from using forced labor from China’s Xinjiang region. Earlier this month, Reuters obtained extensive research claiming that China’s policies including abortions and sterilizations are projected to cut 2.6 to 4.5 million Uyghur births in 20 years. In April, the Biden administration declared that China was committing “genocide” against the Uyghurs, following a similar declaration by the Trump administration in January.

This follows a string of evidence documenting Chinese forced labor practices in Xinjiang. In January, Buzzfeed released a report documenting satellite imagery of extensive labor camps where China is forcibly detaining Uyghurs. Last December, the BBC released an expose documenting China’s forced labor policy of the Uyghurs and other minorities in picking cotton in Xinjiang. Last July, over 180 civil rights organizations called out various apparel brands in China for using forced labor from the Xinjiang region. The same month, the U.S. departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security issued a joint advisory warning US companies of forced labor in Xinjiang. In March 2020, an Australian think tank also alleged that over 83 companies had supply chains of a workforce “under conditions that strongly suggest forced labor.”

While the West is watching allegations of Chinese human rights violations with increased scrutiny, China is responding with a propaganda campaign to deflect attention away from these allegations. Chinese media like state-run newspapers XinhuaNet, Global Times, and China Daily are denying these human rights violations exist, and stating that the US and the West are fabricating them to deflect from their own human rights violations, or to otherwise undermine China and its economic progress. 

Claim One: Human Rights Violations Do Not Occur

Many articles in Chinese media denying human rights violations specifically deny accusations of forced labor. A Global Times article argues that there are no “concentration camps” in China’s Xinjiang region, arguing that these are merely “vocational education and training centers…” The same article also dismisses charges that China is forcibly taking Uyghur children from their parents, proposing that what is happening is merely voluntary “boarding education” decisions made by students and their parents.

Additionally, the Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles called claims of slave labor in the cotton fields “totally absurd,” claiming that since 70 percent of cotton picking in the region was done by machine, there would be no need for slave labor anyway, according to XinhuaNet. Claims of forced labor in the photovoltaic industry are also “absurd,” given that the industry is capital-, not labor-intensive, according to the Chinese “secretary-general of the regional nonferrous metals association,” as reported in China Daily.

Furthermore, according to state officials, “[r]especting people’s choices has always been the top priority of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region government when it comes to drafting employment policies,” as cited by a China Daily article. According to that article, many of the youth in Xinjiang are leaving the region on their own free will to seek jobs with higher salaries, and “[n]ot a single person has been forced to work elsewhere or do a job that they don’t want to.”

Claim Two: The West Uses Human Rights Violations Claims to Subvert China

Chinese media claim that accusations of human rights violations are a way for the West to subvert China. One Global Times article states that accusations of genocide are an attempt by the US and the West to build “a malicious narrative in a bid to ramp up a war against China,” and that calling the Uyghurs “vocational education and training centers” “camps” constitutes “a ploy to demonize China.” A China Daily article argued that claims of “genocide” are “crassly instrumentalized to beat the drums of Sinophobia.” A People’s Daily article accused the Uyghur Tribunal as a mechanism to “slander Xinjiang and interfere with China’s domestic affairs,” born out of “evil intentions of the U.S. and Western anti-China forces.” XinhuaNet reported that, according to a spokesperson of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations, the Uyghur Tribunal was merely a “political attempt to use Xinjiang to create mess and contain China.”

Certain claims of subversion are especially ridiculous. One China Daily article maintains that a report alleging China’s human rights violations against the Uyghurs results from “cooperation” among “interconnected interest groups,” which bizarrely include “Christian fundamentalists,” the “Muslim Brotherhood” and “pro-Israel lobbyists,” among others. The same article also implies that the CIA is implicated; citing a retired US army colonel, the article claims “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…”

Chinese media also claims that this subversion can be economic in nature. A Global Times article argues that “[b]y alleging ‘forced cotton-picking by ethnic minorities,’ certain people are defiling the speckless cotton in Xinjiang and also maligning its socioeconomic progress.” A XinhuaNet article accused the West of accusing China of “forced labor” in the Xinjiang region as a way to “undermine the development of the region.” The Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles called claims of “genocide” and “forced labor” are intended to, among other things, “weaken the local [Xinjiang] economy and contain China’s development,” according to another XinhuaNet article.

Claim Three: Focusing on China’s Alleged Human Rights Violations Deflects from Similar Violations from the West 

Chinese media also portray the West’s scrutiny of China’s human rights record as an attempt to deflect attention away from the West’s poor human rights record. “The US and the West…are thoughtlessly bandying about claims of ‘genocide’- a heinous act…altogether too familiar to Anglo-Saxons with a long legacy of genocide and extinction of races,” remarked an editorial in the Global Times. The same article, citing Ren Yi, “a graduate from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who is an influential Chinese blogger with over a million followers on Weibo,” stated that: “Genocide is a very real concept to the European and Western ears: Because they are the greatest perpetrators of genocide in human history. What they are doing now is projecting their own sin onto and demonizing China in their own mindset.” 

A common theme by Chinese state-run media is to use alleged American human rights abuses in the Muslim world to deflect away criticism of China’s human rights record in Xinjiang. For example, a Global Times article asks rhetorically: “…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?” Additionally, an article in XinhuaNet remarked that “[c]ountries like the United States, the world’s top violator of the human rights of Muslims, should feel ashamed of their disgraceful and even bloody records in human rights, and should look into the mirror before accusing others.”

Conclusion

In response to growing scrutiny of its human rights record in Xinjiang, Chinese state run media is engaging in an elaborate campaign to clear China’s name and cast doubt on accusations coming from the West. Like its propaganda campaigns fighting the “lab leak” theory, and supporting China’s exportation of COVID-19 vaccine, China is using state run media in an attempt to rehabilitate its image abroad.

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REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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