China blames the West for launching an aggressive propaganda campaign since the intensification of the US-China competition
he recent remarks by US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and the assessment by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of human rights concerns in Xinjiang have evoked a strong response from the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations. Issued on August 31, the report held Beijing responsible for “serious human rights violations” in its Xinjiang province.
The Chinese permanent representative to the UN has called the Xinjiang issue a “lie fabricated out of political motivations” with the underlying motive to “undermine China’s stability and obstruct China’s development”. He has urged the UN high commissioner for human rights to stay independent and avoid interfering in China’s internal affairs. He added that the high commissioner should not cede to the political pressure of Western countries.
This followed a comprehensive and scathing statement from the Chinese mission to the United Nations, which labelled the assessment as an “illegal document and a perverse product” of the coercive diplomacy being pursued by the USA and its Western allies. It added that calumny about Xinjiang is unlikely to deceive the world and the attempts by the Western world to contain China’s peaceful rise are doomed to fail.
The statement also pointed out that the assessment has been issued without the mandate from the Human Rights Council (HRC) or the consent of the Chinese government, which constitutes a serious violation of the OHCHR’s mandate. It added that the assessment is based on the presumption of guilt and is derived from the statements and testimonies of a few anti-China separatists - 40 to be precise. Further, it warned that such assessments undermine China’s efforts against terrorism and extremism in Xinjiang.
China accuses the West of launching an aggressive propaganda campaign since the intensification of the US-China competition. “The recent report by the UN Human Rights Commission is indubitably a part of the larger game plan to frame China in a negative light while positing the Western world as the guardian of human rights and flag-bearer of liberal values,” says Dr Hu Shisheng, a senior research fellow and the director of the Institute for South Asia Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).
The framing conveniently ignores the challenge of terrorism and extremism faced by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. The West is meanwhile still waging a nearly two-decade old war on terror wherein incidents of human rights violations were brushed under the carpet. “Pontificating China while its own hands are soaked in the blood of thousands of innocent souls is the sanctimony that can only be associated with the USA-led system and powers. The US and its allies are hesitant to table a resolution setting up an investigatory mechanism into China at the HRC, which started meeting in Geneva last week and runs to October 7 as they fear losing the vote,” says Dr Hu.
Experts believe there is a growing tendency to use global institutions like the OHCHR in order to further the political objectives of the West. “The Western world has displayed an egregious inclination to cherry-pick among alleged cases of human rights violations, and only those cases of alleged human rights violations are raised and peddled which suit the Western world’s political agenda while conveniently ignoring other, more exigent cases, such as in Kashmir, which has been brushed under the carpet owing to India’s geopolitical utility against China,” says Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, an expert on China based in Islamabad.
The propensity significantly undermines the supposed impartial and objective nature of international institutions and renders hollow the Western slogans of human rights, thereby further intensifying the erosion of the liberal international order that the West has been trying so hard to sustain. “Since the report was released on the last day of the outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, so far more than 60 countries and nearly 100 non-governmental organisations have sent letters to the OHCHR to oppose the release of that report,” Ramay adds.
Many countries, including some countries, have through their statements at the HRC and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly made clear their support for the Chinese position on Xinjiang.
Pakistan has continuously maintained that it backs China’s efforts against terrorism, extremism and separatism and has been appreciative of Chinese endeavours to introduce fast-track development in Xinjiang and elevate the region’s socio-economic status at par with other parts of China.
“Pakistan supports China’s efforts for socio-economic development, harmony and peace, and stability in Xinjiang. China has succeeded in lifting over 700 million people out of poverty in the last 35 years, improving their living conditions and the enjoyment of fundamental human rights,” reads a statement issued by the Foreign O on September 6, following the OHCHR report. “We appreciate China’s constructive engagement with the UN human rights system as well as the OIC General Secretariat, as evidenced by visits of the former high commissioner for human rights and an OIC delegation to China,” it adds.
A few months ago, Pakistan’s ambassador to China visited China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. Upon his return, the ambassador presented a picture that was in complete contrast to what is being claimed by the West. It bore witness to social stability, ethnic unity and cultures in Xinjiang.
As things are turning out, the Western world seems bent upon distorting facts about Xinjiang to blemish China’s global profile and scuttle its peaceful rise. The trend is likely to intensify over the coming days commensurate with the intensification of US-China competition. Pakistan, however, is likely to rely more on realities and facts on the ground, rather than being influenced by Western propaganda.
Hamayoun Khan is an Islamabad-based academic and strategic affairs expert. He can be reached at email@example.com
Aoun Sahi is an Islamabad-based journalist, researcher and media trainer. A former Daniel Pearl/ AFPP fellow, he shared the LA Times’ 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. He tweets@AounSahi