Some take it seriously, but the text is just a laundry list of propaganda arguments routinely used by Beijing.
by Marco Respinti
These days, negationists of the genocide that the CCP is waging against Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, that its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkistan, abound. There are journalists, genuine or otherwise, and there are scholars, such as Professor Jane Golley in Australia, a country where the pressures exerted by the CCP reach the limits of endurability, as Bitter Winter has often reported.
Prof. Golley, an Oxonian Dphil (i.e., Ph.D.) in Economics, directs the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in Canberra. On April 21 she led the panel for a symposium, The China Crisis, hosted at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra and designed to launch the China Story Yearbook 2020, precisely entitled Crisis. The China Story Yearbook is both a blog and a series of annual themed overviews of Chinese current affairs. Prof. Golley is one of its co-editors.
Prof. Golley said that the figure of 1 million people detained in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)’s dreadful transformation through education camps is exaggerated. In fact, this is a very prudent estimate used in official documents, quoted by many respected international organizations and a growing number of world parliaments, as well as both the past and present US administrations, to call the CCP’s policy in XUAR nothing less than a blatant case of genocide under the Genocide Convention.
We read it for you
As proof of this exaggeration, Prof. Golley referred to a “scholarly article that debunks much of what you have read in the Western media on this topic,” namely, beyond the 1 million figure, “the pervasive use of forced labor and the description of it [the situation in Xinjiang] as genocide.” Regarding the “scholarly article,” she commented that “the authors have sent this anonymously.” One important note here. She doesn’t say that she and her colleagues keep the “scholarly article” anonymous to protect its authors, which would be understandable: she openly says that the “scholarly article” was sent to her and her colleagues anonymously. In sum, she and her colleagues don’t have the slightest idea who wrote and sent to them a “scholarly article” that they then used, thanks to the ABC broadcasting the symposium, to tell the world that dozens of signed and independent pieces of research, supported by respected international organizations, parliaments, and governments, rely on false information on so delicate a matter as to call a sovereign country’s policy genocide against its own citizens.
Bitter Winter has carefully read the “scholarly article” Prof. Golley referred to. On footnote 1, page 1 of this 18-page “scholarly article,” the anonymous authors write: “After much thought, the authors of this paper have decided to remain anonymous. They do not want to receive hate mail, letters sent to their employers, or additional risks to securing tenure.” Speaking on April 21, Prof. Golley made explicit what the anonymous authors leave implicit: they fear “[…] the direct reaction of those who are committed to the dominant narrative, fact or not.” Probably she means the US and those countries whose parliaments voted to call the CCP’s policy in XUAR “genocide.”
It sounds like a split-tongued warning though, implying that Australia, a democratic country, is a dangerous place where scholars are threatened. Prof Golley says it openly: this “[…] raises […] uncomfortable ideas about the human rights abuses of others, including our allies and ourselves.” Then she went on to describe the embarrassment of some Chinese-Australians, even some of her colleagues, who find themselves in a country, again democratic Australia, that is trying to force them to denounce China. Basically, she distracted her April 21 audience from the topic of the symposium: the actual crimes committed by China.
Adrian Zenz, enemy no. 1
The “scholarly article” that came “anonymously” to Prof. Golley is largely an indictment of Dr. Adrian Zenz’ research and publications. Dr. Zenz is a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He is the first and most acute denouncer of the CCP’s genocide policy in XUAR through the camps system and an enemy Beijing hates. Recently Chinese companies have even sued Dr. Zenz.
The anonymous “scholarly article” puts its conclusion as a premise in order to guide readers, as ideological pamphlets do. Before any analysis, it writes that Zenz “[…] reveals no direct, verifiable evidence of mass internment (as opposed to evidence for short-term ‘training’ or public tenders for the construction of facilities) […]. Given how much Zenz’s work has been cited by the media, these claims have become circular and self-referential” (page 6).
Then it adds that “[i]t is not clear how these judgments are made or why ‘security facilities’ or facilities with high border walls (for example) should be assumed to be ‘internment camps’ or ‘re-education camps’ and not factories or state complexes (perhaps even military or paramilitary in nature). Countering these reports, the Chinese government has published pictures of a number of the facilities claimed by ASPI as ‘internment camps’ which show that they are other commercial or public buildings” (pages 6–7). The anonymous authors should perhaps watch a few videos, for example Bitter Winter’s footage from inside one of those “nice’ facilities.
“Vocational centers” again
Of course, the argument used in the “scholarly article”’ is the same line of defense used by the CCP, after the CCP changed its strategy. In fact, first the CCP denied altogether the existence of those camps, but then changed its line of defense to calling them “educational facilities” once it surrendered to the undeniable evidence of their existence, as proved by Zenz and others. The anonymous “scholarly article” makes no mystery of this and wonders “whether [the camps] are better described as ‘vocational education,’ ‘deradicalization’ or ‘re-education’ centers, or something else,” since “[t]he Chinese government claims that they have provided education and training, equipping people with useful life skills” (page 7).
The arrogance of the anonymous “scholarly article” verges on the ridiculous, when its unknown authors say, “it is worth noting that the Chinese government has stated that the last ‘graduates’ of ‘vocational training centers’ completed their training at the end of 2019. This, however, does not seem to have had any impact on the Western debate about Xinjiang, and most commentators still state regularly that one million individuals ‘are interned in camps in Xinjiang,’ or words to that effect” (pages 7-8). It is just like trying to sell the idea that we should have taken seriously Russian propaganda interviews with Soviet Gulags’ inmates about their “graduation” from Stalin’s facilities, where often prisoners were employed as workers as well. Or wondering why only a few came out alive of the “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) Auschwitz Nazi facility in Poland to tell us what “useful life skills” they had learned there.
Fifth-graders perform far better
“Vocational training,” states the unknown authors of this peculiar “scholarly article,” “has probably been offered to a greater number of people than political re-education” (page 8). The unknown authors discuss this topic further in the section entitled ‘Forced labor’ or employment programs? (pages 8 to 10), with the aim of completely downplaying the coercive nature of the whole camps system. They then move on to the next section (pages 10–12), where claims of “‘forced sterilization’ on a massive scale” (page 10–12) “appear to be rather fuzzy” (page 11).
Then comes the reiteration of the conclusion already anticipated as a premise. All in all, “the conclusion in this paper is that no convincing evidence has been offered of an ‘intent to destroy’ the Uyghur people. A determination of genocide is not credible” (page 15). For this, we have only the word of the anonymous authors.
“I wish I’d said ‘challenged’ instead of ‘debunked,’” Prof. Golley lamented in an interview after the symposium. But on April 21 she was reading from notes, thus her words were carefully chosen beforehand. For a person who claims “I’ve spent my whole life peer-reviewing articles” such cavalier use of words is quite unacceptable. As to the “scholarly article,” she said she had received it “via a former Australian ambassador to China, whom she declined to name, and said she had consulted two other colleagues before going public. Incredibly, she even added she had been convinced because “it was well written and there were lots of footnotes, nearly all in English.” Fifth-graders perform far better.