CGTN exclusive: Grayzone journalist Ajit Singh on Xinjiang
Updated 18:38, 18-May-2020

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved the Uyghur Human Rights Act of 2020 – a legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on Chinese officials for what the U.S. alleges as "human rights abuses" in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

For years, some Western governments and media outlets have repeatedly claimed that China has "detained millions of Uygur Muslims and other ethnic minority groups," despite offering no concrete evidence.

CGTN's Zeng Ziyi has spoken to Ajit Singh who has covered Xinjiang extensively and broke several groundbreaking investigations for independent news The Grayzone. In his articles, Singh discovered the sources behind many allegations universally repeated across Western media to be closely associated with regime-change outfits sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the country's Central Intelligence Agency.

Below is the transcript of the conversation.

CGTN: Could you describe what you have learned through your reporting on Xinjiang?

Singh: In recent years, we've seen the rise of a very powerful, intense narrative with respect to Xinjiang in China. It has been likened to Nazi Germany and concentration camps and the tyrannical government in China that is suppressing Muslims and it is just evil.

This is a story that's basically been treated as unquestionably true and there's no possible alternative that will be considered. Growing up in the West and seeing how the Iraq War happened, the war on Libya, war on Syria etc. Among those of us who are independent journalists, this creates a more critical attitude with respect to how what we hear might be distorted or misrepresented. That encourages myself and others to look into the stories are presented, where are they coming from?

In this way I became interested in looking at what's been repeated endlessly – that China is detaining millions of people in concentration camps. Where is this figure coming from? This is a really serious accusation. If we are actually concerned with this we should take it seriously.

These unquestionable figure actually comes from two studies. The first one is the so-called Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders based in the U.S. that's funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is basically the regime change arm of the U.S. government that funds opposition or pro-U.S. groups in various countries around the world. As its founder said, it basically does what the CIA did secretly in open. So you have study done by this group that interviewed a grand total of eight people, and asked them for their opinions on how many people are being detained. From this, it extrapolated based on their estimates this "million" figure. It's hard to overstate how absurd that is. That would never be taken as serious or reputable scholarship in any country. But it's been taken seriously by Westerners in regard to China.

Then you have a second source which is Adrian Zenz – a German, Christian fundamentalist who taught at a bible college. He has been vaulted as "a world renowned expert (on Xinjiang) by Western government and media." He's also the source for this "million" figure. His studies rely on one news report from an anti-Chinese, separatist Uygur media outlet in Turkey, which has provided no verification for its claims. This outlet regularly invites extremists who call for military aggression and "jihad" against China. It’s an outlet which regularly invites fanatical anti-semites and people who explicitly call China "a nation of savages," and "worse than Jews" – a very racist, extremist source. These are the two sources for this (one million) figure.

So, through investigating this story, you can't come away with anything else other than the perspective that this story is being shaped by the geopolitical interest of the U.S. and its allies.   

There's also the existence of the World Uyghur Congress – an international umbrella network of so-called human rights organizations which have been founded by the NED. The U.S. government has explicitly organized leadership training seminars for this group. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the organization's founding leader said this is what we want to see in China. They want to see the overthrow of the Chinese government and dismemberment of the country into smaller states. If you look at their history, its founder Isa Yusuf Alptekin was a government official under the KMT (The Kuomintang) during the Chinese Civil War and fled the country after the victory of the Chinese revolution. He fled to Turkey, and set up this group in exile claiming to be the true representatives of Uygurs in Turkey. During the Vietnam War, he wrote to then U.S. President Richard Nixon saying he's liberating people around the world as he was murdering millions of Vietnamese. He’s someone who formed really close relations with the far-right, ethnonationalist in Turkey now  known as the "Grey Wolves." The group engages in violent repressions of left-wing and ethnic minorities in Turkey for decades.

So underneath the "human rights" or "humanitarian" facade you see very extremist, pro-U.S., anti-Chinese group that is separatist and seeks to overthrow the Chinese government. You have the combination of very dubious reporting and people who are closely associated with the U.S. government. If people had know this, they would be more skeptical.

CGTN: Could you comment on the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act that the U.S. Congress is so keen on passing?

Singh:  Essentially, they are seeking to use the "human rights abuse" narrative they've crafted to justify imposing sanctions on China and entities who engage with China. So it's part of an attempt to put pressure and create difficulties for China in order to gain leverage, which is a very common strategy that the U.S. pursues to countries and governments that it opposes. It's a very dishonest invocation of "human rights" and "humanitarianism."

Unfortunately, there isn't really a political force in the U.S. with any power that is able to oppose this. Even the most progressive politicians within the U.S. who would speak out against domestic injustices, racism, economic inequality, gender inequality – these issues of oppression, they will never speak out against the distortions of U.S. foreign policy or its underlying agenda. A lot of times, they will be silent or buy into this "humanitarian" justification and advance these calls of sanctions on countries like China. That's very discouraging to see.