China’s propaganda videos are an ineffective attempt to discredit #StillNoInfo
For immediate release
January 14, 2020 5:10 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) +1 (202) 478 1920
UHRP condemns the Chinese government’s latest propaganda videos featuring the relatives of prominent Uyghur activists living overseas. On January 10, nationalist newspaper Global Times released a video featuring one of Ms. Kadeer’s sons and two of her granddaughters. In the video, they claim that the government’s religion policy is “very good” and people are “living a decent life” in the Uyghur homeland. They also denounce their relatives’ human-rights activities abroad.
“No objective observer can believe that Ms. Kadeer’s relatives are speaking freely. If the Chinese government is so sure that Ms. Kadeer’s children and grandchildren are sincere in their praise for government policy, they should be allowed to get passports and visit her in the U.S.,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “But Ms. Kadeer has not even been able to talk to them by phone for several years. It is impossible to believe that they are speaking without coercion. They are hostages, in effect, and the video is yet another source of emotional pain for their family members abroad.”
“The claim that the video demonstrates ‘transparency’ on the part of the Xinjiang authorities is ludicrous,” he continued.
This video and others like it amount to forced displays of loyalty to the authorities. Being forced to denounce relatives as a condition of personal safety marks the disturbing return of Cultural Revolution-era political terror. As UHRP commentators have pointed out, the Party has revived numerous features of its Mao-era thought-rectification campaigns, which rely on “ritual humiliation of those who committed ‘errors’ in their thinking.” Today, the government’s total-control policies towards Uyghurs include “re-education” in the form of brutal detention aimed at “transformation” of Uyghurs’ identity and faith.
Collective, arbitrary punishment of entire families has been another hallmark of the ongoing crackdown in East Turkestan.
In response to the video, Ms. Kadeer has demanded information about all 35 of her relatives who have been unreachable since the beginning of the crackdown.
The Global Times article also claimed that the sister of World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa denounced her brother’s activities, although she did not appear in the video. She is quoted as saying that their parents had died of old age. Mr. Isa had received an indirect report that his mother had died in a camp in 2018, but expressed in a statement his anguish that this was the first news he had heard of his father’s death.
China’s propaganda onslaught using relatives of exiled Uyghurs appears to be largely in response to the #StillNoInfo campaign. The campaign’s founder, Mr. Bahram Sintash, has still received no news of his father. Mr. Ferkat Jawdat’s mother appeared on one of the first of these government-produced videos, in November 2019. She later managed to speak with a New York Times reporter, who was told by authorities that they would kill her if tapes of the interview were released.
Uyghurs are targeted for having relatives overseas or any contact with family and friends abroad. Since 2017, almost all Uyghurs abroad have lost contact with loved ones, who have deleted them from their contacts or ceased to reply. Uyghurs abroad are naturally fearful for their family members’ safety. Many have been directly threatened by Chinese authorities to intimidate them into silence, as documented in an recent UHRP report, Repression Across Borders: The CCP’s Illegal Harassment and Coercion of Uyghur Americans.
Yet many Uyghurs abroad have nonetheless concluded that speaking up is preferable to remaining silent, and have widely used the #ChinaShowThemAll hashtag on social media to demand information about their missing relatives.