Over the past year, the Chinese government has drastically increased its international “covert and overt” propaganda campaign to sway attention away from the alleged human rights abuses occurring in the nation’s Xinjiang province.
“Chinese Government officials and state media are increasingly amplifying content, including disinformation, produced by fringe media and conspiracist websites that are often sympathetic to the narrative positioning of authoritarian regimes,” according to a new Australian Strategic Policy Institute report.
“This amplifies the reach and influence of these sites in the Western media ecosystem.”
According to the research, senior officials from the World Health Organization and the United Nations participated in the effort, spreading misinformation originating from online pro-Beijing fringe conspiracy groups.
U.S.-based social media platforms — including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the Chinese-owned TikTok — are at the center of the campaign.
Facebook was identified as the platform upon which Communist Party messages have the most extensive reach, with the report noting that Pro-Beijing posts garner the most “likes” on the site.
“The CCP is using tactics including leveraging US social media platforms to criticise and smear Uyghur victims, journalists and researchers who work on this topic, as well as their organisations,” the authors of the report wrote.
“Chinese state-owned media outlets and Chinese diplomats both use and amplify online sources that are both fringe and highly favourable to the Party ideologically.”
According to the institute, the Communist Party uses this strategy to combat credible research and news reporting about human rights abuses. Experts predict these online information efforts will intensify as the year progresses.
Communist Party efforts to conceal the repressive treatment of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities have spurred more contempt among Western nations.
Top figures from the European Union imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials for the first time since 1989 last month, claiming that “China’s measures aim to undermine our work,” including to define and uphold fundamental human rights around the world.
“We reiterate our serious concerns about the abuses in the country, in particular the persecution of the Uighur minority in the province of Xinjiang, and the repression of all dissenting and opposition voices,” leading members of the European Parliament said in a statement.
“We firmly condemn these acts and the Chinese government’s recent attempts to interfere in the democratic life of our nations and our European Union.”
State diplomats from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States built on that condemnation, censuring officials from the regime for the ongoing concerns.
“Today, we have taken coordinated action on measures, in parallel to measures by the European Union, that send a clear message about the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang,” the officials said in a joint statement in March.
“The evidence, including from the Chinese Government’s own documents, satellite imagery, and eyewitness testimony is overwhelming. China’s extensive program of repression includes severe restrictions on religious freedoms, the use of forced labour, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilisations, and the concerted destruction of Uyghur heritage.”
“We are united in calling for China to end its repressive practices against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, and to release those arbitrarily detained.”
But President Joe Biden’s “secret sauce” diplomacy and the litany of international pleas for China to stop the repression of Xinjiang’s ethnic groups have fallen on deaf ears.
The regime’s efforts to silence opposition and procure obedience extend across multiple domestic and international fronts. While the nation’s propaganda campaign fixates on swaying international opinion, the Communist Party also deploys recurring domestic disinformation campaigns.
Last week, party officials led an online charge against Western apparel brands after they announced they would no longer source cotton from the nation’s Xinjiang region. The Swedish clothing company H&M was effectively deleted from China’s pre-eminent e-commerce and GPS mapping applications.
The party’s latest propaganda effort debuted in Chinese theaters earlier this month. In fact, the on-screen musical “The Wings of Songs” presents an entirely different story about what is going on in Xinjiang.
According to The New York Times, the state-controlled production tells an alternative story in which different ethnic populations in China live together like “seeds of a pomegranate.” Their convivial life is full of song and dance, drinking and happiness.
The musical tells the story of three main characters — a Uyghur, a Kazakh and a Han Chinese person — who set out to jointly pursue their musical aspirations. Ignoring the strife of their off-screen reality, the actors portray a Chinese society in which everyone speaks fluent Chinese and ethnic resentments are nothing but a fairy tale.
The film erases all remnants of the region’s Islamic influence, portraying the ethnically diverse region as a cultural monolith. Muslim men are depicted beardless, while Muslim women are shown without their traditional garments.
This “good life” portrayal of Xinjiang is the image that the Communist Party is working tirelessly to protect. Its effort to paint a picturesque image of the region illuminates the dissonance in the regime’s policies.
Last week, Beijing officials announced that they had uncovered a plot aiming at breeding animosity among Xinjiang’s ethnic groups, accusing several Uyghur intellectuals of writing texts praising “blood, violence, terrorism and separatism.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.