What's behind Safeguard Defenders' formal complaints against CGTN?
Updated 19:46, 09-Apr-2021
Keith Lamb
The office block that houses the offices of CGTN Europe in Chiswick Park, west London, UK, February 4, 2021. /VCG

The office block that houses the offices of CGTN Europe in Chiswick Park, west London, UK, February 4, 2021. /VCG

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with an MSc degree in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Last month the NGO Safeguard Defenders filed formal complaints against CGTN with the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which are respectively responsible for the European and U.S. broadcasting licenses.

These complaints are on behalf of CGTN's coverage of Adrien Zenz and Mamutjan Abudurehim, which Safeguard Defenders denounce as "grave lies and distortions of facts used by CGTN."

When it comes to Zenz's work these claims leveled at CGTN are stunning considering his non-peer-reviewed work has been found to be full of flagrant data abuse and conjecture. For example, family planning and free healthcare buttress his claims of genocide.

Zenz's academic-like reports create an illusion of authority which lays the foundations for silencing Western opposition to hostilities against China. This in turn gives the U.S. carte blanche to act undemocratically should it wish it instigate aggression against China, whose development challenges U.S. unipolarity.

Safeguard Defenders plays its part in creating an image of civil society standing up to the Chinese state. However, this is an illusion as all organizations need funding. This gives an inordinate amount of power to those who possess capital which happens to be business and governments.

The financing of Safeguard Defenders is not apparent but in its previous incarnation as the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (CUAWG) it received funds from the EU and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is an organization set up to fund groups conducive to Washington's regime change priorities. The fact that Safeguard Defenders is primarily focused on China and Vietnam also fits in with the regime change priorities of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VCMF).

Peter Dahlin, the head of CUAWG and Safeguard Defenders, has previously been deported for running illegal non-registered law operations in China, which helped to train lawyers on human rights issues. However, this organization was found to be using $1.5 million of overseas funds to turn limited disputes over matters like land rights into building an opposition to bring down the state.

Dahlin's recently penned article about Chinese leadership "incompetence" and China's "nightmare world vision" further shows him as someone with an outright anti-China agenda. Incompetence when looking at China's spectacular development, its actions against COVID-19, and its poverty alleviation is clearly not a suitable noun. Similarly, China's vision for the world as one of multipolarity and global development, which leads to greater global democracy, raises global living standards, and precludes hegemonic invasions based on spurious human rights claims, is certainly not nightmarish.

The complaint based on Mamutjan Abudurehim is due to CGTN countering a report by CNN where they try to find his missing Uygur children, which CNN claims is due to the actions of the Chinese state. This CNN report, using ominous background music and dark lens filtering, is clearly not neutral.

Abudurehim's "missing" daughter, Muhlisa Mamut, is found to be living with her grandparents. Being naturally sad about being separated from her parents she cries. However, CNN doesn't release the full interview and neither does it allow Mandarin speakers to listen to what she says. Furthermore, this particular report doesn't address in any depth why Abudurehim will not return to China.

People in Ili, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, June 29, 2017. /VCG

People in Ili, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, June 29, 2017. /VCG

Considering this report constantly refers to "genocide," Chinese state repression, and also claims to "bring you into the heart of one of the great humanitarian crises" there is a mountain of irony lost on the CNN reporters. Firstly, being able to wander freely around Xinjiang is hardly conducive to hiding genocide. Secondly, if they really believed China to be so repressive then they didn't spare a thought for Abudurehim's family who they saw fit to broadcast across the world.

To counter CNN, CGTN went to interview Abdurehim's daughter, which Safeguard Defenders says was scripted and is a "clear attempt to counter the statements previously provided by Muhlise." However, CGTN allowed Muhlisa Mamut to speak at length while CNN released a few seconds of her speaking in its 15-minute report. Consequently, the audience must rely on CNN's scripted interpretation conditioned by ominous music, dark filters, and false claims of genocide.

The fundamental problem with Safeguard Defenders is this: In China, as with any country, there are grievances, injustices, and human rights can always be improved. However, to use these problems, backed by foreign capital, for the purpose of bringing down China amounts to Western imperialism disguised as charity.

This sort of "well-meaning charity" has killed millions of Muslims in the U.S. war against terror. This Western "help" has led to communist states like Cuba being cut off from world trade and Vietnam being mercilessly invaded. In contrast, a "repressive" state like China has lifted millions of people out of poverty, and its "nightmare world vision" is to raise up the rest of the global south too.

Unfortunately, this vision is one that contradicts Western elites and their government-funded "NGO's" order of eternal uneven development. Here the global south will always need a "Western NGO savior" to focus global systemic injustices back onto the governments and people that seek true global justice. Thus, Safeguard Defenders' complaint attempts to silence a member of the global south who dares challenge the Western NGO set narrative.

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