China Tries to Counter Xinjiang Backlash With … a Musical?

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In a single scene, Uyghur ladies are seen dancing in a rousing Bollywood fashion face-off with a gaggle of Uyghur males. In one other, a Kazakh man serenades a gaggle of buddies with a standard two-stringed lute whereas sitting in a yurt.

Welcome to “The Wings of Songs,” a state-backed musical that’s the newest addition to China’s propaganda marketing campaign to defend its insurance policies in Xinjiang. The marketing campaign has intensified in current weeks as Western politicians and rights teams have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and different Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to pressured labor and genocide.

The movie, which debuted in Chinese language cinemas final week, gives a glimpse of the alternate imaginative and prescient of Xinjiang that China’s ruling Communist Social gathering is pushing to audiences at house and overseas. Removed from being oppressed, the musical appears to say, the Uyghurs and different minorities are singing and dancing fortunately in colourful costume, a flashy tackle a drained Chinese language stereotype in regards to the area’s minorities that Uyghur rights activists shortly denounced.

“The notion that Uyghurs can sing and dance so due to this fact there isn’t a genocide — that’s simply not going to work,” stated Nury Turkel, a Uyghur-American lawyer and senior fellow on the Hudson Institute in Washington. “Genocide can happen in any stunning place.”

Within the wake of Western sanctions, the Chinese language authorities has responded with a recent wave of Xinjiang propaganda throughout a large spectrum. The strategy ranges from portraying a sanitized, feel-good model of life in Xinjiang — as within the instance of the musical — to deploying Chinese language officers on social media websites to assault Beijing’s critics. To strengthen its message, the social gathering is emphasizing that its efforts have rooted out the perceived menace of violent terrorism.

Within the authorities’s telling, Xinjiang is now a peaceable place the place Han Chinese language, the nation’s dominant ethnic group, stay in concord alongside the area’s Muslim ethnic minorities, identical to the “seeds of a pomegranate.” It’s a spot the place the federal government has efficiently emancipated ladies from the shackles of extremist pondering. And the area’s ethnic minorities are portrayed as grateful for the federal government’s efforts.

The musical takes the narrative to a brand new cringe-inducing degree. It tells the story of three younger males, a Uyghur, a Kazakh and a Han Chinese language, who come collectively to pursue their musical goals.

The film depicts Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim area in China’s far west, as scrubbed freed from Islamic affect. Younger Uyghur males are clean-shaven and seen chugging beers, freed from the beards and abstinence from alcohol that the authorities see as indicators of non secular extremism. Uyghur ladies are seen with out conventional head scarves.

The Uyghurs and different Central Asian ethnic minorities, seen via this lens, are additionally portrayed as absolutely assimilated into the mainstream. They’re fluent in Chinese language, with few, if any, hints of their native languages. They get alongside nicely with the Han Chinese language ethnic majority, with no sense of the long-simmering resentment amongst Uyghurs and different minorities over systematic discrimination.

The narrative presents an image starkly completely different from the fact on the bottom, through which the authorities preserve tight management utilizing a dense community of surveillance cameras and police posts, and have detained many Uyghurs and different Muslims in mass internment camps and prisons. As of Monday, the movie had introduced in a dismal $109,000 on the field workplace, in accordance with Maoyan, an organization that tracks ticket gross sales.

Chinese language officers had initially denied the existence of the area’s internment camps. Then they described the services as “boarding colleges” through which attendance was utterly voluntary.

Now, the federal government is more and more adopting a extra combative strategy, searching for to justify its insurance policies as essential to fight terrorism and separatism within the area.

Chinese language officers and state media have pushed the federal government’s narrative about its insurance policies in Xinjiang partially by spreading different narratives — together with disinformation — on American social networks like Twitter and Fb. This strategy reached an all-time excessive final 12 months, in accordance with a report printed final week by researchers on the Worldwide Cyber Coverage Middle of the Australian Strategic Coverage Institute, or ASPI.

The social media marketing campaign is centered on Chinese language diplomats on Twitter, state-owned media accounts, pro-Communist Social gathering influencers and bots, the institute’s researchers discovered. The accounts ship messages typically aimed toward spreading disinformation about Uyghurs who’ve spoken out, and to smear researchers, journalists, and organizations engaged on Xinjiang points.

Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of Chinese language politics on the College of Canterbury in New Zealand who was not concerned within the ASPI report, referred to as China’s Xinjiang offensive the largest worldwide propaganda marketing campaign on a single matter that she had seen in her 25 years of researching the Chinese language propaganda system.

“It’s shrill and dogmatic, it’s more and more aggressive,” she stated in emailed feedback. “And it’ll carry on going, whether or not it’s efficient or not.”

In an announcement, Twitter stated it had suspended a variety of the accounts cited by the ASPI researchers. Fb stated in an announcement that it had lately eliminated a malicious hacker group that had been concentrating on the Uyghur diaspora. Each firms started labeling the accounts of state-affiliated media shops final 12 months.

The social gathering has additionally asserted that it wanted to take agency motion after a spate of lethal assaults rocked the area some years in the past. Critics say that the extent of the violence stays unclear, but in addition that such unrest didn’t justify the sweeping, indiscriminate scope of the detentions.

Final week, the federal government performed up a declare that it had uncovered a plot by Uyghur intellectuals to sow ethnic hatred. CGTN, a world arm of China’s state broadcaster, launched a documentary on Friday that accused the students of writing textbooks that had been stuffed with “blood, violence, terrorism and separatism.”

The books had been accepted to be used in elementary and center colleges in Xinjiang for greater than a decade. Then in 2016, shortly earlier than the crackdown began, they had been all of a sudden deemed subversive.

The documentary accuses the intellectuals of getting distorted historic information, citing, for instance, the inclusion of a historic picture of Ehmetjan Qasim, a pacesetter of a short-lived impartial state in Xinjiang within the late Forties.

“It’s simply absurd,” stated Kamalturk Yalqun, whose father, Yalqun Rozi, a distinguished Uyghur scholar, was sentenced to fifteen years in jail in 2018 for tried subversion for his involvement with the textbooks. He stated {that a} picture of Mr. Rozi proven within the movie was the primary time he had seen his father in 5 years.

“China is simply attempting to provide you with any approach they will consider to dehumanize Uyghurs and make these textbooks appear like harmful supplies,” he stated by telephone from Boston. “My father was not an extremist however only a scholar attempting to do his job nicely.”

Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.

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