In an article published on Global Research earlier this month, Moscow based political analyst Andrew Korybko alleges that reports of China’s confiscation of Qurans and prayer rugs in occupied Eastern Turkistan (aka Xinjiang) is “nothing more than a fake news info-war attack cooked up by the US ‘deep state’ through two of its anti-Chinese proxies.” Mr. Korybko story – “the viral fake news report that China is suppressing Muslims in Xinjiang” also appears on Sputnik News as the “top story of the week.”
His main source for confirming the allegation in his article – “Fake News Report About the Rights of China’s Muslims Exposed as US Infowar?” A tweet by Zhao Lijian, the Deputy Chief of the Mission at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad. On September 30, Lijian tweeted:
"This is totally baseless. Muslims in China enjoy good life. Radio Free Asia is anti-China. World Uyghur Congress is a separatist group. "
First, the WUC advocates for the Uyghur people’s right to self-determination. And we’re unapologetically proud of that. Our organization is engaged in nonviolent advocacy for human rights, religious freedom and democracy for the people of Eastern Turkistan. If that makes us a separatist group, so be it.
Fake news is propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes. News isn’t fake just because it isn’t consistent with one’s interest or political views. And having a member of the regime that persecutes Uyghurs claim that Radio Free Asia’s recent reports are fake certainly doesn’t make it fake. China isn’t really known for its honesty on human rights issues, is it?
Mr. Korybko could have contacted RFA or other Uyghur organizations to raise his concerns and ask about the verification process for RFA’s report. He could have contacted human rights monitoring organizations. But instead he decided to take China’s word as the truth on the issue despite the obvious conflict of interest.
Mr. Korybko, you concluded that the report was not credible because of World Uyghur Congress’s anti-China sentiments (and we’ll confirm that we are anti-China violating the human rights of the Uyghur and Tibetan people), but you didn’t consider China’s motives when Mr. Lijian said the report was fake? If you considered yourself a journalist as you were writing the article, perhaps I may remind you that the journalist’s first loyalty is to the truth?
If WUC was RFA’s source for the report, it’s because China blocks independent media access to not just Eastern Turkistan but also to all regions in China. We’re disappointed that you didn’t bring this issue –China’s restrictions on free speech and media –up in your analysis.
Let’s discuss the credibility to the report Mr. Korybko has labeled fake news. Now, the news of China confiscating Qurans and prayer rugs may seem shocking and unrealistic to someone who is unfamiliar with China’s policies in the Uyghur region. But the World Uyghur Congress has little doubts about the accuracy of the reports it verified through Uyghurs in exile who learned of the confiscation efforts through family members in the homeland. RFA’s Uyghur Service verified the reports by communicating with local government officials and residents.
An official statement of the local government in Korla, Eastern Turkistan has been circulating on social media since September 25, 2017. The notice orders all to “bring the Quran and prayer rugs to the United Front Work Department before the flag-raising ceremony on Monday.” Our organization went to great efforts to verify this audio notice and RFA also verified that it was indeed the voice of local government officials.
RFA further confirmed the confiscation efforts on September 26 when Rehim Yasin, the head of Ara Bughra Village in Qara Yulghun Township of Korla city told the news service,
We are confiscating all Qurans, whenever and wherever they were printed, not only Qurans printed in 2012. We could return versions of the Quran that don’t pose a danger to national security after checks and assessment by the appropriate government agencies.
In RFA’s September 27 news report, Rehim Yasin also said,
"People don’t drink wines and dance at homes with prayer rugs. As a consequence, the family isolates itself from society and they would approach radical material on social media very easily and become a threat to national security. Previously, we neglected this, considering it nonsense. But so many incidents have occurred as a result. From now on, we will never give a chance to any element, whether big or small, that may be a potential threat to national security and the stability of Xinjiang."
That is not WUC or the RFA’s statement, but the official statement of a local Uyghur official who works for the Chinese regime. If Global Research or anyone else are interested, we are willing to provide the audio and transcription of that statement.
The reports of China’s confiscation of Qurans and prayer rugs are not fake despite Mr. Lijian and Mr. Korybko’s claim. Mr. Korybko’s article and Global Research’s publication of it insults true journalism and trivializes if not outright denies the suffering of the Uyghur people under Chinese occupation.
The confiscation of Qurans and prayer rugs is not the most urgent of issues the Uyghurs are facing. Perhaps, the most urgent issue today is the detention of thousands of Uyghurs in “re-education” camps. Then there’s the arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances. The issue is that these grave violations of basic human rights have become part of the daily lives of the Uyghur people since the 2009 Urumchi Massacre.
According to it’s website, the Centre for Research on Globalization, which established Global Research in 2001, is “an independent research and media organization” and a nonprofit based in Montreal. We’re disappointed to learn that an independent media organization based in Canada would publish a defamatory article without regard for core journalistic principles. We are used to the hostility of Chinese allies – like Pakistan, Cuba and North Korea –at Human Rights Committee meetings at the United Nations, but are deeply disappointed to find that an independent media organization based in the West would allege our reports are fake without providing any substantial verification (China saying Uyghurs enjoy a good life is not verification).
We see that the Global Research has published several articles on China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative without mentioning “Xinjiang” or Uyghurs. That seems strange considering that most other independent (and even those not so independent) have mentioned the Uyghurs and “Xinjiang” in their coverage of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Perhaps while highlighting the benefits of China’s initiative to the Middle East and Central and South Asia, Global Research writers should also research how China’s initiative impacts the Uyghurs. China’s investment in the initiative is secured through the repression of the Uyghur people.
Finally, we’d like to remind Mr. Korybko and Global Research that the World Uyghur Congress is an organization legally registered in Germany. It’s no secret to anyone who takes consumes news on world affairs that the Chinese Communist Party Mr. Korybko’s article defends rules the authoritarian dictatorship that crushed its own Han Chinese students under tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989. That wasn’t fake news. And neither is China’s persecution of Uyghurs today.