Published: 00:56, March 30, 2021 | Updated: 21:04, June 4, 2023
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NED funds Xinjiang disinformation push
By Mark Pinkstone

Raising its ugly head yet again, the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is funding the disinformation campaign against China’s efforts to battle terrorism and extremism and alleviate poverty in its Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. 

Entries on the NED website state that to further human rights and human dignity in China, it has awarded US$8,758,300 to Uygur groups since 2004, serving as the only institutional funder for Uygur advocacy and “East Turkistan” organizations as it claims. “East Turkistan” here is a terrorist-linked surrogate for Xinjiang of China. 

Between 2016 and 2019, the NED spending on 12 Xinjiang-related projects totaled US$2.74 million. In one project for 2019, it granted US$380,000 to the World Uyghur Congress for the organization to “monitor, document, and highlight” so-called “human rights abuses in East Turkistan” as part of its goals. The NED is an insidious arm operating under the umbrella of United States Aid for International Development (USAID). Its operations were beefed up in recent years by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

The accusation of genocide against China by the US stems from a single source: a June 2020 paper by Adrian Zenz, a right-wing German pseudo-scholar affiliated with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and neoconservative Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC. Zenz’s paper fitted the narrative of Pompeo, who, being a former CIA director, molded his policies and that of the rest of the world around Zenz’s findings. As a born-again Christian, Zenz has been quoted as saying he “was led by God” to fight communism, and deplores homosexuality and gender equality. 

And one of the co-sponsors of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 passed by the US Congress last year was staunch anti-China advocate Marco Rubio, the same Republican Senator who sponsored the Hong Kong Act 2020 which “added oil” to civil unrest in Hong Kong. Rubio and others on Capitol Hill had been aggressively lobbied by Uygur human rights groups based in the US. 

Many companies, international brands and individuals in Xinjiang have suffered heavy losses after Zenz’s false allegations of “forced labor” were spread worldwide. A boycott of Xinjiang-produced cotton is likely to sink many Uygur farmers and processers back into poverty.

Genocide is internationally recognized as “acts and measures undertaken to destroy nations’ or ethnic groups’ culture through spiritual, national, and cultural destruction.”  However, a careful review of Zenz’s research shows that his assertion of “genocide” is contradicted by flagrant data abuse, fraudulent claims, cherry-picking of source material, and propagandistic misrepresentations. The Uygurs had a population of 3 million in China’s first census in 1953, and 12.72 million by 2018. 

On its website, the National Endowment for Democracy has listed “Xinjiang / East Turkistan (China)” officially for dozens of projects in describing “project country” and in project descriptions throughout recent years, indicating the NED is adopting Al-Qaeda phrasing for Xinjiang

Academics throughout the world have condemned his works. Lyle Goldstein, a China specialist and research professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department of the Naval War College, said Zenz’s labeling of the Chinese approach to the Uygurs as “demographic genocide” is “ridiculous to the point of being insulting to those who lost relatives in the Holocaust”. 

It is true that a large number of Uygur people had been in educational facilities and classes in Xinjiang — not for the alleged genocide nor ethnic cleansing — but for vocational training and poverty-alleviation coupled with anti-terrorism and anti-extremism efforts in line with the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, promulgated in 2016. China also launched intensive poverty-relief programs between 2013-20 and eliminated extreme poverty as planned. For over 2,000 years, the region of today’s Xinjiang has seen settlements of multiple ethnic groups, including the Han and Tajik groups. The Uygurs are dated much later in history but developed their own language and alphabet which belongs to the Turkic group of the Altaic phylum. 

However, in recent decades, some people of Uygur origin have been promoting separatism, egged on and supported by the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Islamic extremist terrorist organization seeking the expulsion of China from “East Turkestan”, which is their name for Xinjiang. Since its emergence in 2007, it has claimed responsibility for some 200 terrorist attacks resulting in hundreds of deaths and over 440 injuries. 

Al-Qaeda, which has expressed support for the TIP, Xinjiang “independence”, and/or jihad against China, issued statements naming Xinjiang as “East Turkestan” and as one of the “battlegrounds” of “jihad to liberate every span of land of the Muslims that has been usurped and violated”. A number of Uygurs have also undergone training programs on terrorism by the Taliban. However, on its website, the National Endowment for Democracy has listed “Xinjiang / East Turkistan (China)” officially for dozens of projects in describing “project country” and in project descriptions throughout recent years, indicating the NED is adopting Al-Qaeda phrasing for Xinjiang.

Worse still, the US State Department, some of the Five Eyes countries — the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — and others choose to peddle the flawed Xinjiang report by Zenz and betray the United Nations consensus in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

It is ironic, if not invidious, that some people in the US-led Western world are siding with Al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups in the name of human rights in Xinjiang, a region which has seen the impoverished rising above poverty after years of intensive efforts.

World leaders, following the lead of the US like lemmings falling into an abyss, should be well capable of noting the differences between genocide and terrorism, between facts and fallacies, and remember the bloody terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.  

China is never destroying the Uygur culture through spiritual, national or culture destruction. China is fighting terrorism!  

The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong government, a PR and media consultant, and a veteran journalist.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.